Expanding Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Information and Services

Graphic with text "Over 80% of the 127 participants reported feeling more empowered to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights and request services following the sessions." In the latest phase of WEI’s ongoing project* in the Pacific Island countries, implemented in collaboration with the Fijian Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS), UNFPA Pacific, the Pacific Disability Forum, the Fiji Disabled People’s Federation (FDPF), and Medical Services Pacific (MSP), we responded to a key learning from the jointly produced extensive needs assessments in the region by piloting a program to train women with disabilities to act as community-based health officers. Specifically, this program is aimed at increasing knowledge and expanding access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services for women and young people with and without disabilities in Central and Western Fiji. 

Our outreach and awareness-raising efforts led to over 80% of the 127 participants reporting that they felt more empowered to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights and request services following the sessions. The pilot also underscored the pervasive need for more programming at the community level. 

For example, we found… 

In the Western region: 

  • 7 out of 10 participants had never received information on family planning, safe motherhood, and healthy relationships. 
  • 9 out of 10 participants had never visited a clinic or seen a doctor to ask for information and seek services relating to sexual health, family planning methods, and healthy relationships. 
  • Only 41% of the participants knew that women with disabilities have the right to choose their partners. 

“The training was very useful as it provided health workers with a better platform on how best to provide assistance and services for persons with disabilities…, treating them as any other human being, instead of seeing them as objects of charity or a ‘special-case’”  

A healthcare worker who joined the awareness session on disability-inclusion  

WEI looks forward to building on the success of this pilot in partnership with our partners* to strengthen the capacity of individuals living at the intersection of gender and disability to know their rights and for communities to provide accessible and appropriate health services. 

* This project is supported under the UNFPA Pacific’s Transformative Agenda for Women, Adolescents and Youth in the Pacific program funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).