The Forgotten Women: A Case Study Of Reproductive Health Issues Among Women Living With Disabilities And Educational Implications In Harare, Zimbabwe
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The female population in Zimbabwe is currently pegged at 5997 477 (Central Statistical Office, 2002). Women living with disabilities (WLWD) represent 10% (599 747) of the total female population yet their reproductive health needs are poorly understood and not catered for. The study primarily identifies the reproductive health issues for WLWD by specifically investigating knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and practices pertaining to their reproductive health. It also establishes contributing factors to WLWD’s reproductive he'alth practices and identifies the barriers encountered by such women in their bid to seek reproductive health. The paper is based on survey data and focus group discussions from WLWD; and information from key informants. The study revealed that WLWD do not effectively utilize the available reproductive health services such as contraceptives, access to health information and treatment of STIs. Consequently, they face challenges that include lack of contraceptive use, and increased vulnerability to sexually transmitted diseases including HIV and AIDS. The study also noted that the aforementioned WLWD’s problems are a result of background variables which include socio-economic and traditional factors. The attitude of the society and healthcare providers undermine WLWD’s access to reproductive health services. Proximate determinants such as lack of reproductive health knowledge, inaccessibility, unacceptability and unaffordability of reproductive health services underlie the WLWD’s reproductive health issues. Thus, WLWD have therefore been referred to as ‘the forgotten women’. The study has thus recommended the government and other relevant stakeholders to formulate policies that promote equal access to RH services for the WLWD as other fellow women.