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Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) is still largely a taboo topic in Nepalese culture. Young people have inadequate information and knowledge about the subject and lack access to SRHR services. This is especially challenging for young people with disabilities, whose needs are generally overlooked. (1) A cross-sectional study on young people with disabilities showed that only 38% of the respondents perceived the nearest health service centre to be disability friendly. Provision of physical facilities like ramps, railings, elevators, and suitable toilets were the aspects most mentioned as requirements for a service centre to be called disability friendly. The research also highlights the need to provide information to young people living with disability to make more informed decisions related to their sexual and reproductive health. (2)

To identify the needs of youth with disabilities, YUWA, Nepal's youth-led organization, conducted focus group discussions with young people living with disabilities. Participants highlighted that disability-related projects and programmes in Nepal are specially targeted to improve people's education and economic situations, but health needs and information related to SRHR and mental health are often neglected. They also emphasized the need for SRHR-related information on family planning, safe sex, menstrual hygiene management, bodily changes, youth-friendly health services, violence, and relationships. Moreover, they flagged that loneliness, rejection, discrimination, abuse, sexual harassment, and limited information related to SRHR, leads to mental tension, sometimes resulting in depression.

Increasing awareness on SRHR is the foremost step, and thus YUWA has been conducting various initiatives and activities related to SRHR to raise awareness among youth with disabilities. For example, YUWA conducted a one-day workshop on HIV and AIDS for students of the Central Higher Secondary School for the Deaf in Kathmandu as research has highlighted that people living with disability were at increased exposure risk to HIV infection. The students were keen to learn about family planning methods, sexually transmitted infections, including HIV and AIDS, and their associated myths and misconceptions. The discussions addressed various queries raised about HIV AIDS such as whether the virus could be transmitted through mosquitos, by sharing shaving blades, and by kissing, and whether contraceptive methods could prevent transmission. Participants' feedback helped us to broaden our learning, linking disability with other aspects of SRHR such as gender and sexuality, gender-based violence, menstruation, and family planning methods.

YUWA is now collaborating with several disability organizations to impart information related to sexuality and SRHR, and various aspects of SRHR such as menstrual hygiene management, family planning, bodily change, and youth-friendly health services and relationships.

Disability-related organisations are beginning to emphasize the importance of SRHR-related information to young people. YUWA's collaboration with these organisations has enabled cross learning on the sexual and reproductive health and needs of youth living with disability and raised discussion on the need for disability-friendly and youth-friendly service centres. YUWA is developing a learning module to enable young people living with disability to make better-informed decisions on sexuality and SRHR.

Studies have also found mental health issues to be high among youth living with disabilities. Mental health orientation and information related SRHR was provided to members of the Blind Youth Association of Nepal. The programme discussed different types of mental illness, participants' perceptions on mental health, and stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness. Safe care activities to reduce mental tension and to enhance quality of life were provided. Thus, YUWA has been trying to address SRHR issues of youth with disability through various activities, but challenges remain. It has also become evident that capacity building of organisations not working in the field of disability, to enable them to work on SRDR issues of youth with disability, is a must.

Sharing information related to sexuality and SRHR with youth with various types of disabilities is important. There is a need for civil society organisations, along with government agencies, to work with young people living with disabilities to realize their SRHR. However, this is a challenge due to limited knowledge and resources.

Government should upgrade policies and foster practices to ensure that health services including SRHR services are disability-friendly. Collaboration among stakeholders, including disability organisations and supporting partners, will promote access to information and services related to SRHR.

By Amit Timilsina

President, YUWA; Member, Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights


Twitter: @amittimilsina

Notes & References

(1.) WHO/UNFPA, "Promoting Sexual and Reproductive Health for Persons with Disabilities: WHO/UNFPA guidance note," 2009,1,

(2.) Marie Stopes International, "Sexual and Reproductive Health among Young Persons with Disability in Six Districts of Nepal," 2015.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:monitoring national and regional activities
Author:Timilsina, Amit
Publication:Arrows For Change
Geographic Code:9NEPA
Date:Dec 1, 2017
Next Article:RAISING AWARENESS ON SRHR FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: Towards Inclusion of People with Disabilities in Hanoi, Vietnam.

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