Sunday, 21 April 2024
Sunday, 21 April 2024

Feed the Minds: Improving Sexual Health Access for Deaf Women in Rwanda

FEED the Minds and Rwasa United Youth Association (RUYA) are implementing a one-year project to support deaf women’s access to Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) Knowledge and care in the Burera District, Rwanda.

Understanding challenges in the Burera District

In Burera district, deaf women and girls face serious barriers to accessing information and services for their sexual and reproductive health (SRH).

Local needs assessments show that most healthcare providers in Burera have no sign language skills with 87% of deaf people unable to communicate with them. Existing stigmatised attitudes in society have been hindering families from educating deaf girls on topics related to sexual and reproductive health. As a result, deaf women enter adulthood with little to no knowledge of sexually transmitted infections, HIV/AIDs, and safer sex options.

This leaves these deaf women highly vulnerable to unintended pregnancies and contracting HIV/AIDs and other sexually transmitted infections, leading to long-term negative impacts on their health and well-being.

Feed the Minds’ interventions with RUYA

The project, aimed at delivering training in sign language to 50 healthcare providers to enable them to communicate with deaf women about their sexual and reproductive health needs, has already seen its progress.

Initial interventions

In January 2024, during the first month of the project intervention, RUYA trained healthcare workers in sign language vocabulary to facilitate communication with deaf clients when providing the services they need.

RUYA also trained its staff members in sign language vocabulary, enabling them to communicate with deaf people. These trained members are deployed to accompany and refer deaf patients to the health clinics to access the services.

RUYA, Feed the Mind’s project partner said:

“We have learned that empowering healthcare workers with sign language skills has improved their behaviour and attitudes, which is of paramount importance for deaf women and girls to access sexual and reproductive health needs.”

Feed the Minds: Improving Sexual Health Access for Deaf Women in Rwanda
Training to healthcare workers in delivering deaf-friendly services in healthcare settings.

Ongoing and future activities

In the coming months, RUYA’s training will focus on teaching about the alphabet, body parts, common health symptoms, terms related to sexual and reproductive health, treatment, recommendations, and service referrals. Participants will also be sensitised to recognise deaf patients, and how to offer appropriate care.

To support access to information, 5 disability-friendly corners will be created at health clinics to enable deaf women and girls to access information and advice on sexual and reproductive health topics. Moreover, 5 deaf-friendly workshops will be held at the community level, in which trained healthcare providers will raise awareness of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), offer HIV counselling and testing, explain available contraceptive methods, and distribute free condoms in partnership with the Burera District AIDS Prevention Committee.

The impact of this project will enable deaf women and girls to have access to information and peer support on SRH topics. The community will gain increased appreciation for the importance of deaf women and girl’s rights, leading to increased availability of services. Deaf women and girls are better able to access medical and health services.

We are honoured to be working on this new project with RUYA, a non-government organisation in Rwanda operating to provide socially and economically disadvantaged women and girls with access to economic opportunities and skills enabling them to improve their standards of living.

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