DISABLED WOMEN IN AFRICA (Diwa) is an organisation whose aim is to empower African women and girls with disabilities through research, information sharing, networking and partnership and capacity development.
The Diwa’s current project is to promote and advocate for the sexual and reproductive health rights of women and girls with disabilities.
The objective of the focus group discussion is to raise awareness to the general public on issues pertaining to sexual health and reproductive rights of women and girls with disabilities, what challenges they face, how to come up with strategies that will help see more women and girls with disabilities accessing health institutions with dignity and respect.
Participants were from Makokoba community, different disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) and different stakeholders.
It has been noted that women with disabilities face challenges ranging from social, cultural, economic, political and structural.
This forum created space for women with disabilities to speak on their challenges and see how best different stakeholders can help address these.
A lot of issues came out from the discussions and the thematic areas were flagged out as follows:
It was said that there was need to improve on this aspect as there was lack of access in buildings, beds and information.
Recommendations were made that there is need to construct ramps and have adjustable hospital beds to enable persons with disabilities to climb with ease. The need for having health personnel who are conversant in Sign language was also highlighted.
It was discussed that the female condom was not user-friendly to women with disabilities taking into cognisance different disabilities. Some were failing to make use of this product. There was a recommendation that there was need for further research on this female condom to make it disability-friendly.
Cases of different attitudes of some of the health personnel were echoed out. Abby (not her real name) confirmed that she was one of the victims who had a bad experience in hospitals at one time.
As a result of that negligence, she lost a baby.
Taking from her experience, it was then recommended that there was need to continue educating people through awareness raising campaigns on disability matters targeting different stakeholders so as to avoid such incidents.
The government initiative of acknowledging Sign language as one of the official languages in Zimbabwe was greatly appreciated by the meeting and they expressed their gratitude towards this development. And hope to see the implementation of this in Health sector among others.
Xoliso Msebele is the Diwa co-ordinator.
The article was prepared after a focus group discussion held by Disabled Women in Africa in collaboration with National Council of Disabled Persons in Zimbabwe Bulawayo Branch in Makokoba, Bulawayo, on September 13.