We have previously spoken to Jemimah Kutata, Programme Co-ordinator and Resource Mobiliser for APDK (Association for the Physically Disabled of Kenya), we recently spoke to her regarding her attendance of the 9th Africa conference on sexual health and rights for women, in which she was a speaker.
Jemimah was the first female with a disability to fight the practice of Female Genital Mutilation which was practiced widely in her community. The recipient of numerous awards for her passionate advocacy of Disability rights for rural girls and women.
The conference, held in Nairobi, aims to identify promising policies and actions that respect and promote sexual health alongside the rights of women and girls in urban informal settlements (slums). Proposing actions to tackle problems arising from living in such situations.
Living in slums is not easy, often rudimentary dwellings are made of salvaged wood, tin, cardboard and anything else that will stand up to the elements, with very little privacy or protection. Sanitation is minimal, making washing or taking care of your private needs as a woman a challenge. Young girls are often left at home whilst their parents are working. Leaving them exposed to the danger of rape, molestation or often kidnap which in turn leads to slavery.
It's a hard conversation to have but so important, it's prevalence is felt worldwide. We're fortunate to live in the UK where we have access to health centres, indoor bathrooms, sanitary products and education.
You spoke about Sexual and reproductive health for girls and Women with disabilities at the conference, can you explain the main points you raised and how they will be addressed? -Bee
There is an urgent need to ensure that Sexual Reproductive Health Rights needs of girls and women with disabilities are addressed. Often times women with disabilities fall between the cracks, within women's and disability rights. They are discriminated against and lack their bodies autonomy. For example they are forced into sterilisation and the programs on sex and reproductive health are discriminatory to them. Vision 2030 leave no one behind, there's a long way to go since we still have rural girls and women with disabilities who have not yet been reached. Reproductive health information is not in brailed form so people with visual impairements are left out and Workshops and seminars held in the communities do not have sign language interpreters. Women with hearing impairments sometimes they are beaten by nurses when they go to deliver because they can't communicate with them.
Girls and women with disabilities need to be given safe spaces in all areas of life may it be social, economical, political. - Jemimah
What, if anything is the Kenyan Government doing to support women with physical disabilities and what is their contribution to assisting with sexual and reproductive health for girls and women? -Bee
The programs are there but they are not designed to suit people with disabilities which is why we are advocating for inclusion in all the services. The funds sometimes are there but women with disabilities from rural or remote areas miss out. Services aren't accessible and available to these rural girls and women with disabilities due to lack of funds for transport. -Jemimah
Is there a sexual health education system in place at schools or somewhere they can access programs? -Bee
Schools are are not inclusive of female needs and we are championing for inclusion. Not really and most of the programs are not disability friendly. Sometimes girls are supported by other organisations or well wishers to get them information. Poverty hinders them from accessing this services because even getting transport is an issue. -Jemimah
What are your hopes for young girls and women with disabilities in Kenya and what would you like to achieve for yourself? -Bee
My hope is to train and mentor more girls and women with disabilities. Amplifying their voices. I would like to be in the position where I can advocate for policies and programs to be inclusive. -Jemimah
As it is International women's day on Sunday 8th March, who are your female influences and what message would you like to send to other international women? -Bee
My female influence is CEO Mobility International USA –Susan Sygall she invited me to USA and I learned a lot about women with disabilities and leadership.
Girls and women with disabilities should not be pitied and left behind they should be given equal opportunities within social, economical and political spaces. We are not flawed, it is society that puts up barriers towards disabilities, each one of us is a 'change maker' and let us be our sisters keeper.
We are Proud, Loud & Passionate.
Jemimah is requesting all women to join her in support of changing the lives of African people living with disabilities. Please e-mail her at email@example.com to see how you can help.