A visually impaired young girl reads a Straight Talk braille issue
The Convention on the Rights of Person Living with Disabilities identifies persons with disabilities as those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairment which may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others. Persons with disability experience stigma and maginalisation in many service areas. Women and girls with disability are often victims of gender violence which predisposes them to HIV infection. People with disabilities are less likely to find partners; which fuels the attitude some of them have to sex being a chance and not a choice.
It is however important to note that young people with disabilities have the same sexual reproductive health needs as other people. Negative attitudes in society including health care providers, misconceptions and myths surrounding young people with disabilities also compound the challenges they face in accessing information and services.
Straight Talk Foundation (STF) has since 2009 been working with young people with disabilities through mainstreaming disability in its existing Behavior Change Communication approaches.
Straight Talk produces 2 braille issues of Young Talk and Straight Talk with a print run of 180 copies per issue. These target children and young people with visual impairment who are in school.
- STF also carries out peer education trainings to build capacities of deaf adolescents as peer educators.
- STFs youth centers carry out home visits to provide reproductive health and HIV prevention services to adolescents with mobility challenges.
- Outreaches to institutions with learners who have special needs.
- Advocacy in selected districts and referrals to other partners for service provision.
By and large, disability needs to be prioritized on the national agenda to be able to empower young people with disabilities to make informed decisions just like their peers. There is also need to form more partnerships to extend these services to more young people with disabilities. Provision of sexual reproductive health information and services should be an integral part of all development initiatives. Although the needs of young people are often neglected, disability should be everyone’s business and integrated in all programs with sexual reproductive health information and service provision.
By Anne Nattembo