The government has been challenged to ensure equal access to sexual reproductive health rights, information and services for young people with disability in the Coastal region.
This is as it emerges that Adolescent young people with disabilities (YPWD) commonly face more discrimination and severe social, economic, and civic inequalities than their non-disabled peers.
According to Kilifi county representative of the National Council for Persons with Disabilities (NCPWD) Mathias Tsuma, it is regrettable that the vulnerable groups are subjected to sexual discrimination and injustices such as confinement, forced sterilisation and rape.
“Society tends to think that people with disability should be non-sexual. In many cases, sexuality education is withheld because it’s assumed the person ‘won’t need it,” regretted Tsuma.
Tsuma says about 20,064 people in Kilifi county have different forms of disability and there is need for the county government to formulate laws and policies related to the rights of the vulnerable population.
Speaking in Kilifi during a capacity strengthening workshop for journalists and Young women with disabilities, Dream Achievers youth Organisation (DAYO) Programs officer Enos Opiyo said it is essential that PWDs are enabled to exercise their right to sexual reproductive health access.
“Our findings clearly indicate the need for strategies and programs to raise SRH-related awareness and to help YPWD to develop the appropriate skills and attitudes needed for a healthy reproductive life,” said Opiyo.
The organisation unveiled a ‘We Lead’ program aiming at informing and empowering disabled women on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) information and services access in Kilifi County.
“Young adolescent women with disabilities have been overlooked by both the community and governments leaving them feel marginalised yet they have the same needs for SRH rights and services as persons without disabilities,” said Opiyo.
Opiyo further hinted that the ‘We Lead’ program will champion for the rights of the special groups Since the Constitution provides for the right to the highest attainable standard of health, including reproductive health.
“The overall objective of We Lead is to ensure that by the end of 2025, resilient young women with disabilities, living with HIV, affected by displacement ensure duty-bearers and health-service providers to take steps towards implementing laws, policies and practices that respect and protect these young women’s SRHR,” said Opiyo.
But people with disabilities (PWDs) face numerous barriers in accessing sexual and reproductive health services with their rights often unmet. The challenges range from individual, environmental, attitudinal and institutional.
The WHO estimates that 15 percent of the world’s population has a disability with the highest prevalence of disabilities in lower-income countries. According to the 2019 census, 2.2 per cent of Kenyans have a disability.
They are more likely to be unemployed, uneducated and living in poverty and experience inequalities in accessing healthcare. Achieving sustainable development goals is not possible if the needs of people with disability are underserved.
Despite their vulnerabilities being known, these attitudes and stereotypes have affected programming, resource allocation and planning of sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) interventions, leading to negative reproductive health outcome for PWDs.