October 2023, Juba in South Sudan. Asunta Adut stands near the HI offices in the country's capital. | © B. Bringi / HI
Disabled people are too often left behind when it comes to knowing their sexual health rights. Thanks to HI and the WISH project, Asunta has become more independent.
Asunta Adut is 21 years old and has been studying at the United States International University of Africa in Nairobi Kenya, for the past few months. She has been in contact with HI as part of the WISH project since 2021. Asunta has been disabled in her right hand since she was bitten by a snake when she was younger. Today, she talks about how the WISH project has opened up dialogue and improved access to family planning information and services in her community.
When I heard about this project focused on the sexual and reproductive health of people with disabilities, I was very surprised and curious. I really wanted to find out more about my rights and about how I could help other people with these matters! The women in my community need to take action on sexual and reproductive health; they need to speak up for the whole community and not forget this issue, even when the project is over.
It was very important for me to take part in the events organised by HI. This project really educates women of all ages about sexual and reproductive health and family planning issues. It's a right for everyone, even people with disabilities!
I've learnt a lot thanks to WISH. The activities have enabled me to tell people that I have the right to sexual and reproductive health services just like everyone else. To take things a step further, the workshops and training courses should be translated into Braille and sign language to widen the audience and raise awareness.This project really does help break down certain barriers and overcome social constructs!
Women and girls in my community still have very little access to information about sexual and reproductive health and rights. This is even truer when you're disabled! I was lucky enough to have access to some resources on sexual and reproductive health, but some of my friends who were in South Sudan had never heard of it and had no information.
Social norms are still very strong on these subjects and these rights are not seen to apply to people with disabilities. Many people believe that disability is a medical problem and that the person should focus on their disability and not involve themselves in other areas, such as sexual and reproductive health.
My immediate family treated me like any other child, but some people around me saw me as sick, and some even called me an "open grave", meaning that I was part dead but not yet buried.
Personally, the biggest challenge I faced in my region was the many marriage proposals from older men wanting me to educate their children. According to them, and to other members of the community, younger men wouldn't love me or treat me properly because of my disability.
Today, I'm better informed about my sexual and reproductive health rights and I know where to get family planning services.
I feel good, relieved, happy and independent because I know what to do if there are any problems.
Alongside my studies, I work at an Austrian NGO as a facilitator for the inclusion of people with disabilities. I advocate for the inclusion of people with disabilities in government policies, organisations and companies. We need to maintain our awareness-raising and advocacy work and continue to educate communities about the importance of sexual health and rights for people with disabilities.
I intend to continue educating people about sexual and reproductive health – I want to help in my own small way. In the future, I'd like to see other projects like WISH start up, continue this work and extend it to other communities and states.
|The WISH project, funded by the FCDO and led by the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), is based on a comprehensive and integrated approach to family planning and sexual and reproductive health and rights. WISH prioritises the most underserved women and girls, particularly those under 20, the very poor and marginalized populations. HI is an implementing partner of the WISH2ACTION project and is responsible for the inclusion of people with disabilities in six of the project's 16 implementing countries (Uganda, Ethiopia, Southern Sudan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Madagascar). Since 2018, 5,678 people have been informed about access to health information and services; 400,000 people have benefited from key messages through radio broadcasts; 356 health service providers have been trained in inclusive sexual and reproductive health and rights services; 279 members of Organisations of People with Disabilities have been trained in sexual and reproductive health and rights services; 325 copies of inclusive materials have been produced and disseminated in OPDs and health facilities, and jingles have been broadcast on several radio stations.|