We live in a world in which generally young people do not openly talk about sex. I took on a unique and challenging project, working to tell the stories of those who experience double stigma. In the past few weeks I have been talking to many activists in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights and activists on rights of young people with disabilities. Together, we started our project by doing a multi-part situation analysis and landscape review of the situation faced by young people with disabilities in Sri Lanka with respect to their sexual and reproductive health (SRH). As part of this process, we conducted a review of the national documents of Sri Lanka and I was taken aback to find out there is no reference to sexual and reproductive health of young people with disabilities. We also collected the contact details of the key stake holders who can support us and our project. After conducting a few key informant interviews, I realized the SRH of young people with disabilities is much more complicated that I thought. Even though the term “disability” seems confined, there are many different types of disabilities such as blindness, deaf, physical disabilities, and speech difficulties. It is also surprising that the government of Sri Lanka and other nonprofit organizations who are working on with young people with disabilities are completely silent on SRH of this group. Given this context, how are we going to ensure the SRH rights of young people with disabilities?
In addition to our consultation with activists we also meet with a group of young people with disabilities to discuss the script of the digital story advocacy video we will be producing. Most of the already available videos and recourses show the young people with disabilities in a patronizing way. As a team we have decided we will change this. We will make our video and the campaign in a positive, empowering way. I also understand that we cannot change the perception of the whole world through a 3-4 minutes video or campaign. The video will emphasis the relatability of young people with disabilities through putting the audience in the shoes of young people with disabilities and showing the barriers faced in accessing SRH services and information.
Sex is a taboo for everyone regardless of caste, ethnicity, or nationality. I now clearly see that young people with disabilities also face this taboo. I found that many young people with disabilities are shy and avoid discussing sex even though that have questions. When I was talking to a few young people they said, “This idea is cool” but they need their parent’s or their caretaker’s consent to appear in the video. I feel that is reasonable and I am working with their caretakers in order to explain this project and gain informed consent.
Our project team has decided, this campaign should not be just another “clicktivism” where people just share it on Facebook for likes. We are exploring ways to link online activism to offline sustainable impact. We will undertake a multi-sectoral approach in order to make differences in SRH of young people with disabilities. I strongly believe this campaign will provide key SRH stakeholders with an opportunity to listen to real life stories of young people with disabilities and understand the challenges they face with regard to accessing SRH and contraception.
I will keep you updated, so stay tuned!!!
About World Contraception Day:
In support of World Contraception Day and Women Deliver’s Young Leaders Program, Women Deliver and Bayer will work in partnership on a three-year World Contraception Day (WCD) Ambassadors Project. The project equips young people with the skills they need to collect and share digital stories about young people’s SRHR and access to contraception in their home countries. The project includes a storytelling and digital media training, a seed grant, and advocacy opportunities for the Ambassadors to showcase their work at the international level.