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New Research Tackles Gaps in Sexual Reproductive Health for Vulnerable Youth

by Daniel Sabiiti
1:17 am

Some of the disabled women follow the research findings through a sign language translator

Youths with compounded vulnerabilities, teen mothers, and Organisations of people with disabilities have welcomed recent research on access to Sexual Reproductive Health Rights(SRHR) as a tool to address concerns raised over the years.

This comes following the study conducted under Make Way Programme-Rwanda Consortium, to address challenges surrounding access to comprehensive SRHR services to marginalized youth, especially those with compounded disabilities.

The Consortium is composed of the National Union of Disability Organizations (NUDOR), VSO Rwanda, Akina Mama Wa Afrika, Forum for African Women Educationalists-FAWE Rwanda, and The Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians.

Currently, the Make Way program is being implemented in five districts of Rwanda – Gasabo, Gatsibo, Kirehe, Nyagatare, and Rusizi – as a ground-breaking initiative that aims to tackle barriers to accessing health services through an intersectional analysis of social exclusion, gender disparities, and political economy challenges faced by youth with compounded vulnerabilities.

To ensure the program is effective and measures its impact, a comprehensive study was conducted to establish a baseline of data.

The study focused on multiple identities affecting marginalized youth’s access to and uptake of SRHR services, social, cultural, political, economic, and institutional factors driving exclusion, and analyzed structural barriers hindering marginalized young people from realizing their sexual and reproductive health and rights.

The findings, released on May 31, 2023; showed that the majority of female youth with compounded vulnerabilities who have given birth had their first child in their teens.

Respondents also said though they had heard of SRHR information, there are communication gaps between youth and their parents, as well as, between partners.

Findings also showed that peer pressure is one of the major issues causing SRHR problems and cultural and religious barriers continue to shape the choices of youth regarding access to and utilization of SRHR services and information.

The research also showed that SRHR services in health facilities do not particularly target youth with compounded vulnerabilities as such but are targeted at the general youth population.

Jean Baptiste Murema, the NUDOR Programs Manager said that these findings are the first of the kind in the SRHR area of focus and will enable the union to use it as a tool for advocacy.

“Now we have the science or the research data that will show us how to intervene in the issues raised and will use it to solicit funding and partnership,” Murema said.

Murema also said that the research will be an avenue for partners to rethink extending the 5- year Make Way program intervention to reach more than five districts.

“We need to extend this program throughout the country because the SRHR issues are across,” Murema said.

Brown Niyonsaba a deaf sign language specialist said that many disabled persons remain excluded from SRHR services because of communication challenges, and a lack of awareness of the services available.

“We think that through this research, we will be able to tackle such challenges which have been the main cause of exclusion in accessing sexual reproductive health services,” Niyonsaba said.

Franklin Murangira, VSO Rwanda Chief of Party said that the research informs the interventions of partners, but also highlights key recommendations which can be used to close the gaps in access, availability and affordability of SRHR services by vulnerable youths.

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