Deaf Association Highlights Challenges of Adolescent Girls in new Research

Executive Director of the Ghana National Association of the Deaf (GNAD)Juventus Duorinaah, has highlighted some challenges facing adolescent girls in schools for the deaf across the country. This is in the wake of the call for improved sex education and menstrual hygiene among adolescent girls. He has thus called for a collaboration between stakeholders on such issues so as to enhance girl child education.


To this effect, Duorinaah has advocated for the provision of sex education in accessible format with the inclusion of sign language interpreters on the electronic media, or sub-titles to ensure full access to quality sex education and education on proper menstrual hygiene management as a solution to the absence of critical knowledge and awareness and services gaps among adolescent deaf girls.






The Executive Director of GNAD stated this in Accra on Wednesday during a Stakeholders Advocacy forum on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) which also saw the presentation of findings of a research that examined the knowledge and practices of MHM among adolescent deaf girls in schools. The research conducted in Seven out of the 16 regions in Ghana was also to assess the role of the schools in ensuring proper menstrual hygiene management practices among adolescent girls and to suggest ways to improve access to school attendance.

“GNAD has invested significantly in the training and certifying Ghanaian Sign Language Interpreters through various projects including our program in University of Cape Coast and the training of health workers in basic sign language. We call on the Ministry of Health to as a matter of urgency, come out with enforceable policies and standards that will improve and address barriers to sex and reproductive health services for the Deaf community.

“We call on the Ghana Health Services to improve universal coverage of sex and reproductive health services by collaborating with the association to ensure that services designed are deaf friendly.

“We also call on Parliament and Parliament Select Committee on Health to reform within the National Health Insurance Scheme so that Sign Language Services is captured in the National Health Insurance Scheme to ease the cost barrier that hinder access to sex and reproductive health services for the Deaf community,” Juventus Duorinaah noted.

He assured that GNAD shall continue to collaborate with relevant intuitions to enhance the promotion of access to information and quality sex and reproductive health information and services for the Deaf community. While acknowledging the generous financial support of Amplify Change which facilitated the commission and implementation of the Project, Juventus Duorinaah called on other institutions and donors to support the association to enable it carry out its advocacy work.

Justification for the project:

Sexual and Reproductive Health has become a development issue across the world and now a major health concern in Ghana.

Statistics have revealed that sexually transmitted infections among youth of reproductive age, pregnancy related complications and unsafe induced abortions are responsible for more than 11% of maternal mortality in Ghana.

Also, about 45% of abortions in in this country are unsafe and contribute to disabilities, permanent barrens, death among other complications.

With these alarming figures, the past few years have seen significant interventions by the government through the Ministry of Health (MoH) & the GHS, NGOs and civil society organizations to address the Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) concerns of the Ghanaian population. Some of the interventions include the introduction of series of SRH policies by the MoH/GHS, massive media campaign to create awareness and direct capacity building for adults, promotion of youth and adolescent friendly SRH programmes, among others. Menstrual Health Management (MHM) which forms an important component of Water and Sanitation Health (WASH) and SRH programmes have also been on the agenda of many countries. In Ghana much has been done on MHM, especially for girls in school as part of efforts to ensure that they continue to learn even when they are in their periods.

This said, the reason for the emphasis on Proper Menstrual Hygiene Management is obvious because it is an important determinant of the overall wellbeing of women and girls. Proper menstrual hygiene practices depend on awareness and knowledge about everything on menstruation.

The level of knowledge of menstruation and its associated changes have impact on how girls react to their first menstrual experience. Women and girls who have good knowledge on menstrual issues are able to engage in more hygienic and safer menstrual practices. Such women and girls are thus less vulnerable to have reproductive tract infections and other reproductive health diseases. Therefore, awareness about menstruation and hygienic menstrual practices may help reduce reproductive tract infections and other associated diseases. There is also evidence that there is some relationship between menstrual hygiene management and school attendance and better education outcomes for girls.

However, menstruation and issues relating to menstrual practices are still taboos and many adolescent girls are ignorant of facts and menstrual hygiene practices.

Also, it is generally known that deaf women and girls have the same menstrual health needs as hearing persons. This includes being able to access quality information on menstrual issues, and access to facilities that offer them privacy, safety, and support during menstruation. Given that mainstream healthcare information and services may not be accessible to deaf women and girls, they may also need additional and specialized support services in order to enable them get access to quality information and services regarding menstruation and other related issues.

Evidence have shown that deaf adolescent girls lack the ability to manage their menstrual health with adequate knowledge, safety, and dignity and without stigma because they do not have adequate sex education. Adolescent deaf girls may have greater challenges managing their menstruation than their hearing counterparts due to communication barriers with their hearing parents.

All these issues coupled with the fact that menstrual hygiene for girls may not receive any attention at all is what caused the GNAD to commission a project to identify MHM gaps or unmet SRH gaps among deaf people in some regions in Ghana. The aim is to come out with evidence based information on the unmet MHM gaps among deaf adolescents in and out of school.

The Findings:

The findings of the research revealed among others that more than 56 per cent of female deaf students in Ghana do not feel comfortable having their menstrual cycles while in school.

Similarly, 48 per cent of such Students also do not feel comfortable sitting beside their male counterparts during their menses. About 67 per cent of them are also not happy when their male colleagues tease them when they are “in that time of the month”.

Program Manager for Research at the Center for Employment of Persons with Disability, Dr Emmanuel Sackey, who led the research told stakeholders during the forum that the revelation is critical to girl child education in Ghana and must be addressed.

The study also revealed that, over 70 per cent of students in schools for the deaf had adequate knowledge of Menstrual Hygiene Management compared to 57 per cent with pre-menarche knowledge.

Again, over 24 per cent of participants confirmed that students in schools for the deaf lacked access to proper sanitary pads, while five per cent said they prefer to access their MHM information from their Housemothers.

Dr Sackey said, the research revealed that some of the students believed Menstruation should not be discussed in public because of the fear of being stigmatized while others held the view that it should be opened so that those who have no experience would be aware.

He added that, some of the male counterparts of the participants were of the view that menstruation is a female issue that males should not get involved, but others also share the view that it is a matter that everyone should know about and be of concern.

He said it was also found that the issue of menstruation have impacted negatively on academic output as 36 per cent of students confirmed they absent themselves from class during their menses, 43 per cent said they lost concentration and poor performance recording 58.6 per cent.

The research also revealed that 83 per cent of in-school education on Menstrual Hygiene Management program, wash facilities and support by school Housemothers are effective.

The Research:

The Research was conducted in Seven out of the 16 regions with a sample size of 152  participants comprising 118 girls, 15 boys, Some school Heads, six Senior care takers and six teachers.

The Stakeholders Forum was on the theme: “Improving School Attendance through Improved Menstrual Hygiene Management”.

The research was aimed at examining the knowledge and practices of Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) among adolescent deaf girls in schools.

According to Dr Sackey, the survey sampled Deaf Students between the ages of 10 and 26 through sign language-mediated communication and interviews using the in-depth interviews mode to collect data.

He explained that, the students were asked questions relative to their knowledge before their first time experience of menstruation and their menstrual experience. It was discovered that 96.8 per cent of the students interviewed have prior knowledge before their menses.

However, 48 per cent had little knowledge and 57 per cent had no knowledge at all before their first menstrual cycle.

“I felt so uncomfortable and a sudden mood change, so I felt ashamed and remained indoors for the rest of the day. I was then in school, so I informed my house mother who gave me directions on how to keep myself clean during menstruation,” a student participant narrated her experience to the meeting.

“Normally, some sleep in their dorms rather than coming to school. So, when I visit the dorm and see them on the bed, I ask them why they are here, and they would tell me, it is because of their menses. Some of the girls see their menstruation as sickness,” a housemother narrated.

“During menstruation, I experience pains. At times I feel excruciating pains in the abdomen and headache, but it does not normally occur to me,” another student stated.

Some of the students, per the research findings indicated that, because of menstrual pains they do feel feverish and uncomfortable staying in class and these does not allow some of them to concentrate in class.

“It is very easier for me to manage menstrual pains at home because there is always a family member to assist in case of a serious complication,” another student participant stated.

Recommendations: 

It was however recommended that Schools collaborate with Districts and the Ghana Health Service, encourage students to make use of Housemothers, build capacity of Housemothers, Sustain and Improve in-school MHM Education, include Male Students and Teachers in Menstrual Hygiene Management as well as diversify source of information on menstrual hygiene management.

Madam Wilma Titus-Glover, a Principal Programs Officer for Special Education at the Ministry of Education, urged housemothers and Heads to go beyond the basic menstrual hygiene and make the students or girls understand the functions of their genital organs. She said when they students understand the importance of their sex organs it would make them appreciate and use it well.

She charged housemothers and teachers to reduce behaviors that scare students from approaching them and allow them to get closer so they can get better understanding of their problems.

GNAD:

GNAD is the national umbrella body of Deaf People in Ghana. It is the mouthpiece of deaf people working to ensure that every Deaf person in Ghana enjoys the right to a life of dignity. The Association seeks to achieve an active and productive Deaf community with access to education and information, and economic activities that can sustain and maintain quality and security of life. This it achieves through the mobilization of its members, advocating to remove communication barriers, creating awareness on Deaf issues, and advocating for equal opportunities for Deaf People, among others.

By Jeorge Wilson Kingson || ghananewsonline.com.gh 

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