From Stairs To Ramps: When Will Persons With Disabilities Be Included In Conversations About Contraceptives And Family Planning?

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Image from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjxFhEbCLmM&feature=youtu.be

Form ni gani is a movement by Kenyan creatives that is creating conversations about sex and contraceptives. The movement is the people’s response to there not being proper information and provision for family planning methods, despite this being provided for in the constitution. Form ni gani translates to, “What is the plan?”. In this case, the question being raised is, how aware are you about your sexual and reproductive health? How invested are you in making concrete plans about your future as it pertains to marriage and children?

Form ni gani is an initiative that cuts across a society that refuses to acknowledge sexual health as an imperative part of our lives. Sex topics are approached delicately and reluctantly.

As a disabled person myself, I am curious to find out how inclusive the initiatives on contraceptives are is in terms of accommodating my own community. Disability is a topic that is already deemed to be tough, add sex into the conversation and we are at a stalemate. The honest truth is that disabled people are often excluded from sex topics. This is a deeper behaviour that goes back to us not being treated as complete beings. In the eyes of most, we will always be the broken pieces whose voices will never be loud enough to matter.

A man does not lose his primal characteristics just because he needs crutches to get around. A woman with dwarfism still has the instincts of motherhood and being a mother. Asexuality is not a side effect of a disability. It is therefore beyond my comprehension why the sex talk is always lukewarm when it comes to us.

Access to basic sexual and reproductive health services is a hassle on its own if you have a disability. Let’s say you are a blind woman; you walk into a chemist and you enquire about contraceptive options. As soon as the attendant becomes aware of your disability, he/she instantly sees you in a different light. They stigmatize you and end up not giving you the assistance you deserve.

Disabled people, women especially, are easy targets for sex predators. Sad stories of mentally challenged women raped and left pregnant to bear children they have no ability to care for are not uncommon. There are deaf girls who were gang-raped and killed. Then there was the horrifying case of the woman from Machakos who was raped, killed and left naked on her bed next to her crutches. These cases happen more often than we think, they just never make the news or get to the courtroom. Read about how disabled women protest increased violence.

A significant number of disabled people live below the poverty line. Most of us are broke and that makes it even harder to seek out sexual and reproductive services. These services are sometimes many kilometres away, therefore, making them out of reach. Physical access is also a major issue with many of these facilities not having ramps and accessible environments. The information provided might not be in a format that would make sense to the disabled person. Without braille for the blind and sign language for the deaf, access to information is challenged.

Policies should be implemented to have at least one health practitioner in every health institution who is well versed in sign language or writing in braille. This would make it easier for a disabled person to express themselves without the possibility of information being misunderstood or lost in translation.

Physical access is often overlooked and disabled people have to always contend with unfriendly environments where they seldom feel welcomed. Physical access not only entails installing ramps and standard size doors, but it is also about building institutions that are close to the people who require family planning services. This makes it easier for disabled people to check in without going through the trouble involved in logistics.

In the end, the greatest progress that will be achieved can only be facilitated by a good attitude. People need to look within themselves and resolve any prejudice that they might have about disabled people and sex. Equality should be shown in the way information is given, the way services are rendered and in the general attitude of how people view people with disability.

Maybe the Form Ni Gani platform might be a great place to start having some of these conversations. Check out From Stairs To Ramps: Persons With Disabilities Deserve Love Too – We Want To Fall In Love And Get Into Relationships Just Like You

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