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Promoting Sexual Health Information for Deaf Young People

SignHealth Uganda and Deaf Child Worldwide are empowering deaf young people to access sexual health information and lead healthy lives.

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What problem does your idea solve?

Most of Uganda’s 160,000 deaf children grow up with limited to no support with communication or language. They miss out on conversations and education about sexual relationships, abuse, pregnancy and HIV, because peers, teachers, and health workers can’t communicate with them. This leaves them vulnerable to HIV – the second leading cause of adolescent death in Uganda. In a recent workshop, deaf youth said their biggest challenge is the lack of information around sexual and reproductive health.

Explain your idea

Our idea is that with the right information and support, deaf young people themselves are the best placed to make decisions about their health, and to reach other deaf youth in their communities. We will empower deaf young people in 3 districts of Uganda by providing them with comprehensive sexual education, combined with training in sign language and communication that will allow them to communicate effectively with their families, teachers and health service providers, and to be informed advocates for their rights. To ensure that young people can access deaf-friendly education and services, we will train service providers in communicating with deaf service users. • Training and accessible information on sexual and reproductive health: We will train 36 deaf peer educators to lead comprehensive sexual and reproductive health sessions with deaf youth in their communities. • Empowering deaf young people through communication: We will provide deaf young people with sign language training tailored to their educational level. • Creating accessible services for deaf youth: We will train 72 health workers and teachers on communicating with deaf young people, and raise the community’s awareness about deafness through public events and outreach campaigns via local radio stations. The project builds on our 3-year Deaf Youth Empowerment project in these districts.

Who benefits?

Our idea will reach 600 deaf young people (ages 14-24), both in and out of school, in Masaka, Kampala and Jinja districts. We will focus hard-to-reach deaf young people who have been unable to access education, and deaf young people at elevated risk of contracting HIV. Our awareness-raising and communications training will also reach at least 3,000 members of the community, increasing support for deaf youth to access services and identify and report sexual abuse.

How is your idea unique?

Our idea is unique in that it combines effective peer education with training of service providers, meaning that it not only creates demand for deaf-friendly sexual and reproductive health services, but also builds these services to meet the new demand. Our close working relationships with healthcare providers mean that we are ideally placed to pioneer this model. Peer-led sexual education for deaf youth is also rare, especially in Uganda (only one other organisation has attempted this, in a different district), and evidence indicates that it will be more successful than other interventions: UNICEF reports that “peer educators have shown in some cases to be more effective than adults in establishing norms and in changing attitudes related to sexual behaviour”. Our track record of working with deaf young Ugandans gives us unparalleled access to their views about the challenges facing them, and this idea sprang directly from participatory consultation with deaf youth.

Tell us more about you

SignHealth Uganda is a NGO founded in 2009 to promote equitable access to social services & opportunities for deaf children & their families. They will implement the project in partnership with the Uganda National Association of the Deaf. Deaf Child Worldwide has over 11 years’ experience working with deaf children & young people in East Africa. DCW have been working in partnership with SignHealth on the Birds & Bees will provide technical support & advice throughout the project.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

We are still developing our training modules on sexual and reproductive health for deaf peer leaders to use in the field, and on deaf awareness and communication to be used with health service providers. These have not yet been finalised because we are currently holding a ground-breaking consultation with deaf young people to gauge their level of knowledge around sexual and reproductive health, and to enable their views to shape our trainings. This consultation, the first of its kind in Uganda, will ensure the modules are as accessible and tailored to the local context as possible.

Where will your idea be implemented?

  • Uganda

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

Expertise in Sector

  • I've worked in a sector related to my idea for more than a year.

Organizational Status

  • We are a registered non-profit, charity, NGO, or community-based organization.

Idea Maturity

  • Prototyping: I have done some small tests with prospective users to continue developing my idea.

How has your idea changed based on feedback?

Consulting with deaf young people (DYP) has influenced the development of the project significantly. The importance of peer to peer work & training peer educators was emphasised, all DYP consulted with felt that this was key to the project’s success & sustainability. Ensuring Ugandan Sign Language Interpreters are trained to a high standard, impartial & share all information clearly was also a key point raised. Many DYP had bad experiences of interpreters & these have been taken on board. Feedback from DYP included how they access information, & their use of mobile phones, apps, & social media has been influential in designing the promotion of the project & how to communicate with peer educators. DYP also emphasised the importance of working with local service providers, communities, schools/parents, to share information about DYP’s rights so they support & understand the project.

Who will implement this idea?

SignHealth Uganda & Uganda National Association for the Deaf will implement the project with two full time staff dedicated to running the activities, supporting the DYP & delivering training. Deaf Child Worldwide, who is the international arm of the National Deaf Children’s Society, will provide technical expertise to the project, particularly on approaches to ensure DYP are active participants in all aspects of the project & to develop deaf friendly resources.

Using a human-centered design approach, you may uncover insights that lead to small or foundational changes to your organization’s existing strategy or processes in order to unlock the potential of your idea. How would your organization go about making such changes?

We will have regular monitoring and evaluation sessions throughout the process to ensure our approach remains human-centred. If we are finding that our project is not meeting the needs of our beneficiaries, activities and plans will be changed to respond more accurately to ensure beneficiaries feel an ownership and enthusiasm about the work we will be undertaking. Bigger decisions will be made at a steering group made up of the three partners with nominated staff who will have gained feedback from other staff members.

What is it that most attracted you to Amplify instead of a more traditional funding model?

We want to put deaf young people in the driving seat to develop training and resources which will work for them to support their peers. To do this means that we need to be flexible – we don’t have all the answers yet. We have ideas of what we think will work, but we want to make sure that we are led by young people - they may want to develop films, apps, leaflets or dramas or a mixture of all. Amplify allows us to explore these ideas and adapt to what the deaf young people need the most.

What challenges do your end-users face? (1) What is the biggest challenge that your end-users face on a day-to-day, individual level? (2) What is the biggest systems-level challenge that affects your end-users?

Deaf young people face many barriers to information, and have many rights denied. This can have a devastating effect on their lives, especially when this is around SRH information – early pregnancy, STI’s, forced marriage and sexual violence and exploitation are just a few of the areas where deaf young people are hugely at risk, far more than their hearing peers, and consequently are in need of support and guidance. One of the most significant barriers is around communication, sign language interpreters are not provided at health centres/ hospitals, meaning DYP cannot access the information or communicate with health care providers. Many deaf young people have very low, or no literacy skills, some have no sign language, and so accessing SRH information is virtually impossible for them.

Tell us about your vision for this project: (1) share one sentence about the impact you would like to see from this project in five years and (2) what is the biggest question you need to answer to get there?

By 2021 we aim to transform the way that deaf young people access sexual and reproductive health information in Uganda through our peer leaders approach and sharing resources and training nationally. How do we continue to develop our model to reach more marginalised deaf young people? How can we best work with mainstream organisations & government departments with expertise on sexual & reproductive health, to ensure all sexual health information & services is accessible for deaf young people?

How long have you and your colleagues been working on this idea together?

  • Between 1 and 2 years

How many of your team’s paid, full-time staff are currently based in the location where the beneficiaries of your proposed idea live?

  • Between 5-10 paid, full-time staff

Is your organization registered in the country you intend to implement your idea in?

  • We are registered in all countries where we plan to implement.

My organization's operational budget for 2016 was:

  • Between $100,000 and $500,000 USD

If your team/idea/organization has a website, please share the URL below.

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Photo of Uchenna Okafor

If you are re-submitting this idea, please do well to include the disabled persons especially the blind in the design. Just imagine the approach of the blind to sex drive and love without reasonable education in such areas. This may spell the next disaster of their lives, trust me.

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