By Olasunkanmi Onifade
Abuja – The Deaf Women Association of Nigeria (DWAN) on Wednesday advocated improved access to sexual and reproductive rights to enable them be empowered and live better lives.
Mrs Helen Beyioku-Alase, the Chairperson of the association, made the call during a workshop on Sexual Reproductive Health Rights supported by the U.S. Embassy.
She said the society believed that deaf women are unfit to make their decisions and leave it to family members, spouses or media personnel or government officials to make them instead.
“The situation is aggravated by non-availability of disability friendly health and specific sign language information, low sensitisation and awareness creation on the issues of sexual reproductive health rights of deaf women and their children.
“Also, it is aggravated by the non-availability of sign language interpreters and limited leadership skills recorded among deaf women and their community leaders to negotiate for their full inclusion into sexual and reproductive health rights programmes.’’
Beyioku-Alase said the U.S. embassy approved and funded their proposal to implement a 12-month project on sexual and reproductive health rights focused on sensitisation of deaf women and girls.
It is also focused on the training of health care providers on basic health sign language.
She said the project would empower them enough to make informed decisions about their health, minimise the communication gap between healthcare providers and deaf women.
Mrs Doris Ikepeze, the Policy Consultant of IPAS, said women with disabilities frequently encountered substandard care, including discrimination and abusive treatment when accessing maternal and new born health services.
She said such negative treatment can deter them from seeking prenatal healthcare.
“Deaf women need to have access to information during pregnancy in order to have healthy pregnancy and informed decision to determine the course of their lives.
“Accurate and unbiased, non-directive and nondiscriminatory counselling about prenatal test results were some of their challenges,’’Ikepeze said.
The representative of the U.S. mission in Nigeria Public Affairs, Ms Sophie Savage, said the U.S. health sector played an important role of ensuring the wellbeing of all citizens.
She said the U.S. mission had also made it a priority to teach, educate and engage Nigerians to advocate that Persons With Disabilities(PWD) are able to equitably access health facilities.
“Women and girls in particular with disabilities should not be left out of the conversation; it is possible only when we partner with service providers to ensure their inclusion in health services.
“We encourage continued, diverse partnership to explore opportunities and support this increased accessibility to sexual and reproductive health and maternal service for deaf women and girls throughout Nigeria,’’ she appealed. (NAN)