According to the 2023 factsheet on disability by the World Health Organization, an estimated 1.3 billion people which makes up 16 percent of the global population experience a significant disability today.
According to the 2021 UNFPA World Population Dashboard, Nigeria is home to an estimated 32 million people with disabilities, most of whom are children. The 2018 Nigeria Demographic Health Survey revealed that an estimated seven percent of household members above age five and nine percent of those above age 60 have experienced some form of disability.
The five most common forms of disability include visual impairment, hearing impairment, physical impairment, intellectual impairment, and communication impairment.
Adolescent girls and young women with disabilities have sexual reproductive health needs as other people without disabilities.
Yet, they experience health inequities that arise from unfair conditions faced by persons with disabilities, including stigma, discrimination, poverty, exclusion from education and employment, and barriers faced in the health system itself. Some of the barriers faced in the health system include the unavailability of sign language interpreters, disability assistants, visual signs, ramps, elevators, long queues, and negligence.
This is influenced by a lack of awareness and sensitization, limited skilled interpreters, untrained health workers, and a lack of compassion and respect. Hence, they must be considered priority interventions.
Sustainable Impact and Development (SID) Initiative under the We Lead project supported by HIVOS organized two-day training from 22nd – 23rd September 2023 for 35 adolescent girls and young women with disabilities aged 15 – 30 on advocating for their sexual reproductive health and rights in Lagos, Nigeria.
They included girls with visual impairment, physical impairment, hearing impairment and dwarfism. The participants were trained by experts on the Disability Rights Act, sexual reproductive health and rights and advocacy.
They engaged in group activities that involved the development of recommendations to inform a policy brief to be used in advocating and engaging relevant stakeholders on advancing disability inclusion in the health system.
Some of the recommendations proposed include the creation of a curriculum to train healthcare providers on how to properly attend to persons with disabilities; sensitization of healthcare providers on providing care for persons with disabilities; and provision of sign language interpreters and disability-friendly health facilities.
The participants highlighted some of their learnings from the training. One participant stated “I learnt about my sexual reproductive health and rights, contraceptives, body autonomy. Another participant shared, “I learnt about places to seek support when my rights are violated”.
Elizabeth Talatu, the Executive Director of the Sustainable Impact and Development Initiative, Williams, urged the participants to share the learnings from the training with their peers and demand their sexual reproductive health and rights.
She highlighted that universal health coverage will not be achieved if persons with disabilities do not receive quality health services on an equal basis with others.
She further called on all relevant stakeholders, including the government, civil society organizations, academic and religious institutions, private sector organizations, parents, and media agencies, to collectively end discrimination and stigmatization against persons with disabilities. The achievement of a disability-inclusive world is critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and health for all.
The Sustainable Impact and Development Initiative for Adolescents and Youth is a youth-led non-governmental organization that is dedicated to advancing the sexual reproductive health and rights of adolescents and young people in urban and rural communities in Nigeria. SID initiative has a vision is to build a society where every young person can reach their full potential free of sexual health challenges, regardless of their socio-economic status.
We Lead is an innovative and far-reaching program that aims to strengthen the influence and position of young women whose sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRH-R) are neglected the most. It targets young women and adolescent girls who: live with a disability; identify as lesbian, bisexual, trans, or intersex (LBTI); live with HIV; and/or are affected by displacement.