Sexual & reproductive health: CBCHS, partners assure better services for women, girls with disabilities.
They took the commitment at the CBCHS Centre in Yaounde yesterday. This was during a meeting to present findings of a study on the challenges faced by women and girls living with disabilities in accessing sexual and reproductive health. Results of the challenges parents of children with disabilities also faced in accessing sexual and reproductive health were also reviewed.
The experiences of women and girls with disabilities in accessing family planning services in Cameroon, and the role of the association of parents of children with disabilities in promoting the fight for children with disabilities, were also richly discussed.
Besides representatives of partner organisations working with the CBCHS, scholars and consultants from the University of Bamenda, Uba; University of Zambia, Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone and the University of Netherlands, also attended the event.
The research was carried out by two Masters Students from the University of Bamenda, Jaff Comfort Akikea and Kum Nji Desmond; under the supervision of the Dr Valentine Ngalim and the CBCHS.
The research was carried out in the conflict-hit North West and South West Regions and the Centre Region.
The researchers disclosed that challenges faced by women and girls living with disabilities include: Inaccessible healthcare facilities, lack of transportation and lack of information about available services.
They also talked of social and cultural practices that stigmatise women and girls with disabilities and lack of trained healthcare providers who can provide appropriate care. They also cited the absence of money to pay for healthcare services.
One of the researchers, Kum Nji Desmond, proposed that assistance be given to parents who have children with disabilities. Such parents, Kum also said, need to be properly followed up to ensure they attend to the needs of their children.
Need for inclusive policies
The Supervisor of the researchers, Dr Ngalim, told reporters that there is need for inclusive policies in favour of women and girls living with disabilities.
He said: “These persons with disabilities don’t constitute a homogenous group. They are a heterogeneous group, which means that we have to put in place policies, programs and intervention strategies that respond to their different needs”.
Dr Ngalim also said stakeholders need to work with the Ministries of Secondary Education and Public Health to properly address the situation. Education, he intimated, is the source of empowerment.
Need for change in practice, mentality
For his part, the Director of the CBC Health Services, Prof Tih Pius Muffih, underscored that after the presentations, what is needed is a change in mentality and practice in terms of access to sexual and reproductive health for women and girls with disabilities.
“We did the research to find out the underlying causes in our society and to work on the setbacks in order to provide sexual and reproductive health services to women and girls with disabilities,” Prof Tih stated.
Findings, he said, are in the interest of decision-makers as well as parents of children with disabilities. “We believe that the findings are rich and can actually influence a lot of behaviourial change in,” the CBCHS boss stated.
Stakeholders, during the event, reiterated the need for greater collaboration between government, disability community and healthcare providers to ensure that women and girls with disabilities have access to quality sexual and reproductive health services.