Maternal mortality is one area that NGR is sadly and definitely lagging behind. Despite having a recent 'achievement' of reducing pregnancy-related complications by 42% between 2008 and 2011 (as recently reported during the United Nations Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases in September 2011), NGR has a very long way to go in achieving its Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5 by 2015. The current Minister of State for Health said that this 'improvement' was down to better access to skilled birth attendants (SBA) and community health workers ( CHW). So how are deaf women faring? Do we even know what proportion of deaf women of reproductive age is affected? The simple answer is no. I have asked three different people on the status of deaf women in matters related to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) particularly in NGR.
When I first started interactive workshops/sessions with deaf people on HIV/AIDS, I had a one-to-one informal interview with a deaf lady who told me that a lot of deaf women she knew have had abortions (which are illegal) which begs the question if they are being offered information on contraception, condom use and HIV/AIDS in a format that they can understand and accept. And the answer is no! The deaf lady herself told me that she did not have a job...which, I suppose is the case with a lot of others. I however declined from asking her outright if she engages in transactional sex particularly because of the male sign language interpreter (SLI) who was present. (Oh I MUST be proficient in American Sign Language (ASL) ASAP!!)
Few days after that interview, I met a sign language interpreter who gave me a horrific account of a particular deaf teenage girl who was lured away from home to be sex trafficked, had a number of abortions and the SLI was unsure if she was tested for any sexually transmitted infections. Her pitiful story was made horrific by the fact that she was pimped out by a DEAF man!! I was lost for words! Unfortunately she had an extremely weak- possibly non-existent bargaining and negotiating power. I am not sure if she had been able to have counselling as a result of her horrific experiences. I would have loved to find out what kind of relationship she had with her father and mother, whether or not she received any support from her family BEFORE her said experiences, her prior knowledge about sexual matters- informal and formal. I shudder to think if she had been sexually molested even before being trafficked and whether or not her first sexual experience was consensual.
On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to meet a female SLI who lives in Zamfara State which is in the far northern part of Nigeria. We discussed on the situation of deaf women in the North. Because of the isolation due to cultural factors and physical environment, it is very difficult to even estimate the number of deaf women especially of reproductive age. I asked specifically about the proportion of deaf women who was/is a victim of vesico-vaginal fistula (VVF) which is a significant public health problem and a clear sign of the failure of the healthcare delivery system. Unfortunately she does not know.
One does not need to look far because it is very apparent that deaf people particularly women bear the huge brunt of the huge inequities of the poor healthcare system in NGR. What access to reasonable basic healthcare do deaf people even have? Remember that the Minister of State for Health mentioned better access to SBA and CHW as a tool to improve maternal mortality? Do we have even any SBA or CHW who understands sign language? Any sign language intepreter in a clinic or community health post? Most likely not...
I tell you that this is just the tip of the iceberg.....
This is it for now and do enjoy the rest of the day wherever you all are. Peace!
Just a postscript: I added a photo for a previous entry and a 10.28min videoclip in another previous entry; please have a look! Thank you!