Be inclusive: sexual and reproductive health

Julius and Najiba stand outside their home in Uganda with their two young children. Julius is holding a white cane.

All sexual and reproductive health services need to be inclusive and accessible for people with disabilities as part of the global commitment to Universal Health Coverage.

Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are human rights. They are not only an integral part of the right to health, but are also necessary to enjoy many other human rights, including the rights to life, information and freedom from discrimination.

Watch the video produced by WHO and IDDC to hear the experiences of people with disabilities when accessing health information services.

Two women and a younger girl, embracing and smiling.

Why should disability inclusion be at the top of the SRHR agenda?

  • If people and particularly women with disabilities are not meaningfully included in mainstream SRHR programmes, Universal Health Coverage and Sustainable Development Goals targets will not be met.
  • SRHR information needs to be inclusive and accessible to ensure all people with disabilities are informed of their rights.
A woman wearing a bright orange t-shirt smiles broadly.

“In my experience, women and girls find it difficult to take care of their menstrual needs with dignity. As a member of the Empowerment and Livelihoods for Adolescents club, I am much more confident. As a woman, I am happy!”

A woman wearing a bright orange t-shirt smiles broadly.

Programme participant Sabita, Nepal

In this video, Esther shares her experiences of the barriers she faced when accessing healthcare services.

“It is important that people with disabilities are not left behind. If we neglect them, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals will be almost impossible.”

Joy Shu’aibu, Sightsavers director of programme operations in Nigeria

Practical steps for including people with disabilities in SRHR programmes

  • Commitments and programmes should raise awareness of the sexual and reproductive health and rights of all people with disabilities, emphasising their sexual autonomy and decision-making capacity and the multiple and intersectional discrimination faced in claiming their rights. Donors and NGOs working on SRHR should aim to set a target percentage of programmes to be marked as disability inclusive using the DAC marker.
  • Donors, civil society and other development stakeholders should collect and support national governments to collect disability disaggregated data around the provision of sexual and reproductive health information and services to inform improvements in policy and services.
  • Donors should set targets that focus on access rather than use as these are less likely to lead to women and girls with disabilities being pressured into ‘accepting’ contraceptives in order for targets to be met. Women and girls’ right to bodily autonomy must be put at the centre.
  • Programmes should focus on ensuring health workers are given adequate training, including through the curricula of health training institutions and continuous professional development, to improve disability awareness and ensure that sexual and reproductive information, goods and services are provided to people with disabilities without discrimination or stigma.
  • Global health stakeholders should focus on meaningfully engaging people with disabilities and their representative organisations when designing, implementing and monitoring SRHR projects.
  • SRHR services, facilities and information need to be inclusive and fully accessible to people with disabilities in all their diversity.
  • Social and behaviour change campaigns must be designed to be inclusive and accessible, and tackle disability stigma and discrimination at all levels of society.
A woman in a vibrant yellow dress.

“I used to feel shy. But now that I am recovered, I have understood we should not hesitate, and we should share our issues.”

A woman in a vibrant yellow dress.

Programme participant Saraswati, Nepal

Our people

Joy Shu'aibu

Joy Shu’aibu

Joy is director of programme operations for Sightsavers in Nigeria. She will moderate a panel at the International Conference on Family Planning in November 2022, focusing on sexual and reproductive health for people with disabilities.
Read Joy’s interview

Lois Auta-Udonkanta.

Lois Auta-Udonkanta

As president and CEO of the Network of Women with Disabilities in Nigeria, Lois advocates for the inclusion of women with disabilities and for addressing barriers in infrastructure and institutional attitudes in Nigeria.
Read Lois’ interview

Our programmes

Inclusive family planning in northern Nigeria

This project aims to reduce unmet needs for family planning and increase access to contraceptives and information for people with disabilities, particularly adolescent girls and young women.

It is led by Sightsavers and BBC Media Action, in partnership with the Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities and Network of Women with Disabilities, working with the Nigerian Primary Healthcare Development Agency.

Improving access to SRHR services for people with disabilities in Nepal

In Nepal, we tested ways of improving access to and uptake of good-quality sexual and reproductive health services and information for young people with disabilities, with the aim of improving their wellbeing and inclusion.

The project was led by Humanity & Inclusion, in partnership with BRAC International, Sense International, Light for the World, local DPOs and National Federation of the Deaf Nepal.

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