Ivana Zelic and Maja Jovic from IZ KRUGA VOJVODINA held a piece of training for women with sensory disabilities that use sign language in the rooms of The Association of Deaf and Hard of Hearing of Sumadija Region Kragujevac. The aim of the training was to raise their capacities and skills for advocacy and promotion of their sexual and reproductive health and rights. Members of the Association of Deaf and Hard of Hearing from Kragujevac attended the training and sign language interpreters Nada Jevtovic and Vesna Rosic translated into sign language. A trainer Maja Jovic held part of the training in sign language.
In the first part the trainers familiarized the participants with the work of IZ KRUGA VOJVODINA and the types and models of disability and its terminology, sexual and reproductive health and rights of women with disabilities and the obstacles they face in exercising their rights. In the second part of the training they talked with the participants about public actions women with a sensory disability might undertake in Kragujevac, mapping the obstacles, lobbying for their rights and making a plan for advocacy action.
The trainers presented the main steps that lead to social changes and samples of actions of women with disabilities members of The Initiative of Women with Disabilities for Promotion of Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Serbia accomplished in their municipalities. The participants were asked to join The Initiative and work jointly with women from other municipalities on the promotion of sexual and reproductive health and the rights of women with disabilities.
Deaf women are exposed to huge pressure from their immediate surroundings and health workers who send them messages that they should not give birth because the child may not hear, that they will not be able to provide them with proper care and that they will not be good enough mothers and wives.
– Neighbours say about me: “No way you will ever marry”.
– My husband was advised to find a proper, capable girlfriend. I am hard of hearing.
– My husband is deaf and physically disabled. When I was pregnant, my family and friends told me I shouldn’t have the baby. They told me that my baby wouldn’t hear and that it would inherit the disability.
Deaf women shared the main obstacles they face during gynecological check-ups:
– The check-up can be scheduled personally or with the help of a sign interpreter from the association. There is no option of doing it via e-mail or SMS.
– A nurse told the woman that came to a check-up: “Why did you come?”.
– The doctor is more committed when talking to women without disabilities than women with disabilities.
– Deaf women are denied wholesome information about the examination. The doctors address us shortly, in a few words, so we get half-hearted information.
– When we go to a check-up with a sign interpreter, the examination lasts longer, we can ask more questions and get all answers.
– Women not members of the association, ones that don’t live in Kragujevac but in nearby villages or don’t use sign language, experience problems scheduling. Women that become hard of hearing in late adulthood and don’t want to use sign language also have this problem.
The obstacles that prevent women with sensory disabilities who use sign language from exercising their sexual and reproductive rights in Kragujevac will be mapped, documented and presented to relevant stakeholders and the general public, with the aim to motivate them to take action to improve the current situation.
The training was held on September 26, 2022. within the project Promotion of sexual and reproductive health and rights of women with disabilities by building up their capacities for advocacy and sensibilization of health workers. The project is realized in cooperation with The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
Photo: Ivana Maslac