Despite this clear progress, young women and adolescent girls with disabilities continue to experience barriers in accessing voluntary contraception and family planning services.
For example, evidence shows that women with disabilities experience lower coverage of modern contraceptives (44%) compared to women without disabilities (48%). The gap is even larger in South Asia: 48% versus 59%. Similarly, adults with disabilities in sub-Saharan Africa are less likely to have comprehensive knowledge about HIV prevention and transmission (23%) compared to people without disabilities (33%).
Widespread stigma and discrimination related to the intersection of gender and disability are also major barriers that prevent women and girls with disabilities from exercising their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). These are further compounded by limited access to accessible and inclusive information, limited knowledge of disability inclusion among health workers, infrastructural barriers within health facilities, direct and indirect costs of services and contraceptive products, and discriminatory policies.
It is important to understand that these are not isolated issues. As highlighted in the recent WHO global report on health equity for people with disabilities, these barriers are part of a wider systemic failure of health systems and societal factors, which result in people with disabilities – particularly women and girls – experiencing severe health inequities and worse health outcomes compared to the rest of the population.
Through this initiative, we aim to advance universal health coverage by tackling the health inequities that people with disabilities face when exercising their SRHR.
The project is implementing a comprehensive, inclusive and accessible social and behaviour change strategy. It aims to reach approximately four million people through a radio drama, factual radio programming, a digital communications campaign and interpersonal communication activities at a community level. All these activities focus on reaching women and girls with disabilities, husbands, family members and religious leaders.
The project has also completed accessibility audits of 24 public and private SRHR facilities in Kaduna state, provided in-person disability inclusion and gender equity training for more than 1,000 service providers and is supporting organisations of people with disabilities to advocate for the National Policy on SRHR of Persons with Disabilities to be adopted and integrated in Kaduna state.