Disabled women petition govt for equal access to sexual, reproductive health services

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DISABLED Women in Africa (Diwa), in collaboration with Disabled Women Support Organisation, has prepared a position paper to guide various ministries on issues of equal access to sexual and reproductive health service for women and girls with disabilities.

by LUYANDUHLOBO MAKWATI/MTHANDAZO NYONI

The position paper was finalised during a workshop in Bulawayo last week.

Diwa board chairperson Isaac Nyathi told our sister paper Southern Eye that people with disabilities in Zimbabwe were looked down upon and it was high time public and private sector organisations started recognising them as equal partners.

“There are a lot of things women with disabilities are going through in as much as sexual and reproductive health rights are concerned,” Nyathi said.

“As such, we have prepared a position paper that we are looking forward to present to various government departments such as the Ministry of Health and that of Education. In short, we are advocating for our rights and dignity,” he added.

Nyathi said the position paper would be handed over to various stakeholders in the next few weeks in Harare and Bulawayo.

Stakeholders at the workshop said physically-challenged women continued to be deprived of their rights although government had ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) instrument.

They urged the government to domesticate the UNCRPD instrument which Zimbabwe endorsed in September 2013. They said they were still facing serious challenges in accessing family planning methods and maternity facilities in public health institutions.

Other participants revealed that females with various forms of disabilities were at high risk of abuse due to stigma, discrimination, lack of support structures and information pertaining to their rights and how to protect themselves.

Some of the women with disabilities said they could not use a female condom because, with the nature of their disabilities, they could not easily crouch. To them, they said, the device was discriminatory because they could not utilise their sexual rights. To make matters worse, there was no condom use information in Braille and most of the staff at health institutions was unable to use sign language, they said.

Nyathi said there was need for government departments and the general populace to accept disability. He said most infrastructure at public and private health institutions in the country was not friendly to people with disabilities.