“Ensuring people with disabilities have access to health care in your communities largely depends on you.” This was Christiana Yaghr’s message, communicated in sign language, to 27 women with diverse disabilities in the small northern Ghanaian town of Wa. Representing regions throughout the country, many of the participants had traveled for hours to this workshop, the first of its kind, to learn not only about HIV/AIDS prevention but also about how to ensure that women with disabilities have access to services and information.
In Ghana, women with disabilities remain highly vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, in spite of public health efforts that have reduced the national prevalence of HIV/AIDS by half.
For this training, the Regional Director of Health Program services joined disabled women leaders, providing information and engaging in direct dialogue on how to reach women and girls with disabilities.
A number of promising action items emerged from the training. The Health Directorate pledged to collaborate with Christiana’s organization, the Wa Association of the Deaf, to recruit full-time sign language interpreters and provide training for nurses in selected health centers and hospitals. These are first steps toward ensuring that women with disabilities are included in the national commitment to HIV/AIDS prevention. For their part, disabled women pledged to take information and strategies for inclusion back to their respective regions, and to support women with disabilities to access health services.
Christiana, a Deaf community leader and alumna of MIUSA’s Women’s Institute on Leadership and Disability (WILD), is one of many women with disabilities around the world who are taking a bold, proactive approach to disability inclusion. By forging partnerships with development organizations, women with disabilities seek to “infiltrate” the programs that are rightfully theirs.
These activists are not waiting for development organizations to recognize the rights and potential of women with disabilities, but are reaching out and using their creativity, knowledge and skills to ensure that disabled women know about and join the development efforts that are addressing the needs of their diverse, local communities and countries, according to Mobility International USA. (MIUSA).