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Women with disabilities demand sexual, reproductive rights

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Women with disabilities have called on people in the country to stop violating their sexual and reproductive health rights.

The women said they are facing numerous challenges in the process of trying to access quality sexual and reproductive health services.

This is despite all efforts in the development of relevant policies such as sexual reproductive health policy and other structures that deal with all forms of abuse and domestic violence.

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Speaking during an interface aimed at engaging the media to popularise the findings of the December 2015 assessment on the sexual and reproductive health challenges that women with disabilities are facing, Disabled Women in Development (Diwode) Executive Director, Sigere Kasasi, called for equal treatment.

Kasasi said girls and women with disabilities are living within families and communities that often overprotect and isolate them in issues of sexual and reproductive health.

She said what women with disabilities want are community members and media that are very proactive in disseminating messages on the need for them to access sexual and reproductive health services without challenges that come just because they are women with disabilities.

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“There is a lot of stigma and discrimination at household, community and health centre levels which affect women and girls with disabilities a lot. We need a change in the society attitude towards women and girls with disabilities in the process of accessing quality sexual and reproductive health services,” Kasasi said.

In his presentation of the findings, Diwode Trustee Cassim Gama described the challenges that women with disabilities are facing as double tragedy considering that majority of all women in the country are already vulnerable.

Gama said the need for a strong voice for women with disabilities cannot be emphasised as people with disabilities are deliberately excluded from society and also prone to exploitation.

He said it is very wrong for people in a modern country like Malawi to keep on thinking that women and girls with disabilities have no sexual and reproductive rights.

“Media can, therefore, help through provision of accurate and unbiased information about disability issues and sexual and reproductive health,” Gama said.

The 2015 survey, which Disability Rights Fund supported financially and was conducted in the area of Traditional Authority Kalolo in Lilongwe, found that gender dynamics greatly affect girls and women with disabilities in issues of sexual and reproductive health.

It also found that there are major attitude and communication problems towards girls and women with disabilities among health workers on top of disability unfriendly health facilities.

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