By Luminous Jannamike
Nigeria Fellows of the Global Exchange on Religion in Society (GERIS) have advocated holistic approach to the sexual and reproductive health rights of Women With Disabilities (WWDs).
They also called for the implementation of the Discrimination against Persons With Disabilities Prohibition Act (2018) to ensure the total protection of the rights of all PWDs in the country.
Speaking at a one-day interactive session with journalists in the nation’s capital to round up the GERIS micro project on social inclusion and societal resilience, the founder of Haly Hope Foundation, Apolmida Haruna Tsammani, noted that the 2018 legislation was aimed at minimising discrimination and other harmful practices against PWDs.
Nonetheless, she lamented that ministries, departments, and agencies responsible for implementation of the law, were not doing enough in this direction; resulting in the neglect of sexual and reproductive health rights of women with disabilities.
Consequently, the GERIS Fellow called for the full implementation of the law, saying that the move would improve the lives of women with disabilities in every sense.
She said, “We already have a National Policy on Reproductive Health Rights of Persons with Disabilities with specific emphasis on women and girls. We also already have the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities Prohibition Act (2019). The laws are there. What is lacking is adequate implementation.
“We want the government to put measures in place to make sure that these policy and law are actionable, and implementation.”
She stressed that efforts at achieving social inclusion of PWDs should not just be about passing the law, but taking it forward to create cultural impacts.
“We want the government to support persons with disabilities because we need the enabling environment and access to sexual and reproductive health rights,” Tsammani added
The rights advocate also explained that the campaign by the GERIS Fellows was designed to promote the sexual and reproductive health rights of women and girls living with a disability.
According to her, the aim is to tackle challenges that hinder women and girls with disability from accessing sexual and reproductive health services.
To this end, she said the GERIS Fellows have set up a referral pathway by putting in place a Women With Disabilities -Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights helpline where women with disabilities who are survivors of abuse and other related issues can call in and they will be referred to the appropriate organization for support.
“The Helpline is 07011110239. Women With Disabilities and their families can either SMS or call-in to register their complaints and also make counselling enquiries,” she added.
Tsammani disclosed the intention of the GERIS Fellows to plug in to resources available in the National databank on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights for better results.
She said that they had secured support to ensure understanding, awareness, and appreciation of the contents of the National Policy on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of Persons with Disabilities with special focus on women and girls.
The essence of the exercise was to make the policy document simpler and comprehensible to female PWDs and the public.
According to her, a simplified version of the manual will be up on their various organisation website and social media platforms as soon as it is ready.
Another Fellow, Mr Zubairu Babajide Atta, from the Media Advocates for Peace Foundation, explained why the GERIS micro programme tagged: ‘CSOs and Media Networking Project: Promoting the Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights of Women with Disabilities in Nigeria’ was adopted for implementation.
He said the focus on women and girls was because they were vulnerable and often face challenges about their rights, particularly those living with disabilities.
“We decided to focus on women with disabilities to give them voice and let people realise that physical disabilities does not exclude them from accessing sexual and reproductive health services,” Atta said.