On Thursday 31st October, 2019, Deaf Women Aloud Initiative (DWAI) organized a project inception meeting with Deaf Women Association of Nigeria (DWAN) and key stakeholders in Healthcare services in Abuja. A project supported by VOICE was designed to improve deaf women access to sexual and reproductive health rights.
The Executive Director of DWAI, Hellen Beyioku Alase in her welcome address said that the goal of the project is to provide documentary outline structure for sexual reproductive health related sign language glossary for adaption. The project is designed to minimize the communication gaps between the deaf community with emphasis on deaf women and the health providers within the health facilities and equip the health providers to meet the health needs of the Deaf women and girls.
Speaking further, she stated that the major problem is non-availability of the disability-friendly health and specific sign language information, inadequate awareness creation on the issues of Sexual Reproductive Health Rights(SRHR) of Deaf women and girls in Nigeria by Stakeholders and health practitioners, insufficient number of sign language interpreters and limited leadership skill on the part of deaf women and deaf community at large to carry out adequate advocacy to negotiate for the full inclusion of deaf women in the sexual and reproductive health rights programmes.
She commended VOICE for their magnanimity in funding the project which is poised to achieve increased access to sexual and reproductive health rights by the deaf women and girls within 12 months. The project will among other things focus on promoting sign language Glossary to serve as an alternative to sign language in health facilities to ensure that the deaf are not left behind. The project will also provide opportunity for the deaf women to make decision on their health care.
She believes that by the end of the project, sign language glossary must have been developed and deaf women must have been well equipped to make informed decision about their health and the communication gap that exist between the health care providers and the deaf women will be minimized.
Mrs. Azeez Bukola (Health and Human Services Secretariat FCTA Area11, Garki, Abuja representing Honourable Secretary, Health FCTA, she pledges the commitment of Health secretariat to adopt the sign language glossary when it is full developed and it is sent for adoption.
Sam Oji representing Dr. Faisal Shuaib of National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, he said that NPHCDA is dedicated to the improvement of healthcare services in Nigeria and any idea that is geared towards enhancing access to the healthcare services is acceptable by the agency.
Mercy Egemba from National Agency for the Control of AIDS(NACA) representing Dr. Yinka Falola Anolemuah, the head of Gender and Human Rights, Care and Support Division NACA, she said that NACA have mainstreamed Persons with disabilities in HIV/AIDS programmes and attempts to promote access to health services including HIV/AIDS treatment services is one that NACA will gladly support.
Hauwa Shekarau, Country Director, IPAS who have worked with deaf women in promoting of their rights when it comes to sexual and reproductive health, reaffirmed her resolve to continue to work with PWDs especially women with disabilities to improve their healthcare services and rights.
Ijeoma Okwor, Voice coordinator Abuja praised the commitment and dedication of DWAI and the Executive Director Mrs. Helen towards ensuring that issues of the deaf especially the deaf women is brought to the front burner and that was what informed the decision of VOICE to sponsor this project which is specifically to ease the access to healthcare services by deaf women and girls through sign language glossary. It is uniquely important to the deaf women that’s way the initiative was supported by VOICE.
There were also comments full of commendations and supports from Lazan Samuel Josiah representing the medical social welfare of National Hospital Abuja, Aderibigbe Sola representing the FCT chairman, JONAPWD, Harrison Otokpa DWAI reporter, Uche Andrew (the National Secretary, DWAN), and Ufele Gracious (Member, DWAN FCT Chapter).
The facilitators took the stakeholders through their roles in the development of SRHR sign language glossary, the documentation/structure of glossary. There was a group work whereby the stakeholders were shared into three group to discuss and present the possible ways sign language glossary can be developed and documented which will be sent to Federal Ministry of Health and other relevant agencies for adoption.
The participants at the meeting were members of DWAN, leaders of Nigeria National Association of the Deaf, Organizations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs), Health Practitioners, Media Practitioners and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).
DWAI is a non-profit organization that is poised to amplify the voice of the deaf women in Africa whose voices have been drowned by the convention and status-quo. It is designed to raise awareness about sensitive issues affecting deaf women and their children. Issues like sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR), sexual abuse, gender-based violence, injustices, stigmatization and discrimination. It also exists to mitigate the exploitation of deaf women, eliminate discrimination, promote social inclusion and enhance secular participation of deaf women as well as promote policy formulation and their implementation to enhance the lives of people with disabilities.