A full classroom of Secondary School students living with a hearing impairment were given an opportunity to share their queries on Sexual Reproductive Health issues at a Youth Jam.
These are some of the queer questions that were submitted by them; when is the right time to have sex? Why does someone miss menses for a long time? And How is HIV related to STDs, among other questions.
It is quite disturbing that with the wide spread of information, most students of Wakiso Secondary School of the Deaf (WSSD) represent a portion of other young people with disability that have been left behind.
A Youth Jam is a safe space for young people and experts mobilised to have a dialogue on sexual reproductive health issues concerning them in different regions of Uganda.
To find out why they were not conversant with such issues, Ms Brenda Nyangoma, a senior four student at WSSD says: “People with disabilities don’t open up to people without disability because they despise us hence we deal with our own issues internally. However for gender equality to occur, there is need to have attitude change because our disability doesn’t define us.”
Ms Christine Atim, the Senior Woman teacher at WSSD says: “Girls need a lot of answers from us and we are usually overwhelmed with responsibilities regarding Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) issues. These children aren't exposed due to the nature of their disability.”
“We need to have a kin eye on them so as to guide them on taking on healthy relationships with precaution. The boys actually open up but we haven't had combined meetings with both sexes which is wanting because they too need to be guided on how to deal with different issues,” she adds.
The hustle that Atim goes through to answer queries on SRH is enormous. If the burden is lifted off her shoulders and the sexuality education is incorporated in the curriculum, young people living with disabilities will be empowered to manage their bodies and relationships with other people.
The "Youth Jam” organized by Wetalk Series Uganda tackled subject matters on puberty, menstrual and personal hygiene; STDs, HIV, ending teenage pregnancies (Premarital sex/ unprotected sex), personal relations with parents and teachers, gender equality and sexuality.
Ms Esther Kyomugisha, that Programmes Officer at Uganda Network of Aids Service Organizations acknowledges that people with a hearing impairment are a closely-knit minority within our communities but due to their mode of communication, they continue to be socially marginalized from the SRH Rights.
Dr Diana Nambatya, the Deputy Country Director, Community Health Partnerships says more sensitization on SRH rights is needed to equitably bring out gender equality issues.
“Students need to make time to learn about adolescent SRH, Menstrual Health Hygiene and HIV. It is does not mean the end of the world because one is deaf. As young people, the decision one makes will impact their life either positively or negatively,” she advised the students.
Sexuality Education is an avenue of empowerment that prepares one to protect themselves against infections (HIV, STDs, and Non-Communicable Diseases), sexual abuse and sexual debut. Albeit the National Sexuality Education Framework (NSEF) was launched, there has been a red flag raised on contentious issues regarding age appropriateness and morality. The NSEF is premised on the fact that government recognizes that sexuality education is essential in equipping young people with information about sexuality so as to enable them to make healthier choices about their sexual and reproductive health. Also enable them utilize life-skills in developing values, attitudes and relationships that maximize their God-given potential, says Henry Semakula, Principal Education Officer at Ministry of Education.
“Youth can be critical agents of positive socioeconomic change if appropriate investments are made to unleash their power to innovate and become productive citizens.” However, Betty Kyaddondo, Director Family Health, National Population Council adds, “youth can also be a development liability if uneducated, unskilled, unhealthy and without opportunities. They can be agents of social unrest.”
“Uganda leads with a 25 percent rate of teenage pregnancy, which is alarming. The challenge remains high and may not be reduced easily for as long as government has not adopted a comprehensive approach to sexuality Education because the value based approach still restrict the message they get. Emphasis on abstinence and being faithful is a highly non homogenous message to a population comprising of young people in strong vulnerability and abject poverty, says Jackson Chekweko, Executive Director Reproductive Health.