By Jake Agliata
Earlier this week we announced the launch of the International Activities Fund, which will assist SSDP activists around the world who don’t have access to the same resources often used by young people in the United States. Our goal is to raise $10,000 during the month of July to kickstart the fund. Today, we want to share a story from SSDP Ghana founder and Board member Juana Boateng:
I have always been compassionate about others and believe in the possibility of change. I come from a country with a population of about 26 million people and a high degree of drug trafficking and misuse. The drug policies in Ghana focus more on criminalization and imprisonment with no directive on rehabilitation or public health.
Many young, intelligent, and skillful individuals are thrown into prison without a fair trial because people involved with drugs are automatically considered guilty. There are hundreds of people in prison who have been forgotten by the state. The only home they know is the four corners of the Nsawam prisons or any other prison they may find themselves in.
Most drug users are branded as criminals or junkies with society giving little to no attention to their needs. Believing this necessitated a paradigm shift in Ghana’s drug policy, I joined Students for Sensible Drug Policy online. After doing some research, I was amazed at the impact young people are making in their countries and communities. SSDP was the first youth-led group in Ghana fighting to end inhumane drug policies. We started advocating for the rights of people who use drugs by taking to the streets and talking to people about our cause. We used the media to reach the masses, writing articles and launching annual educational events to keep the discussion going. We also met with stakeholders to talk about the need for a shift in Ghana’s drug policy system. We have support from the former president of Ghana, JJ Rawlings, who believes in empowering youth and in drug policy reform. It has been a tough road for us as we had minimal funds to accomplish this work.