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Empowerment is Certified

By July 7, 2009News

Limerick Independent – July 8, 2009

Rachael Finucane

This Monday, 17 asylum seekers and refugees graduated from a 10-week empowerment course focusing on sexual and reproductive health and rights.

The programme is entitled Majira, which means 'family planning' in Swahili, but it can also be translated as 'seasons'. A similar course was also run in Dublin.

Improving the sexual and reproductive health of asylum seekers and refugees is the aim of the programme and in particular the course seeks to give asylum seekers and refugees the tools to discuss issues such as STIs, HIV/AIDS, female genital mutilation and domestic violence, for example.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan-who presented the certificates-said that sexual and reproductive health was “an important issue for all women” and encouraged the participants to “pass on the new knowledge gained during the course to other women”.

There are 1,998 women and girls of reproductive age (13-45) living in direct-provision accommodation in Ireland.

Lynn Harnedy, Majira Programme Officer with the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA), said that “barriers include lack of information about available services, negative attitudes from front-line health workers and communication difficulties”.

“In addition, they can face issues such as strict gender roles within families, female genital mutilation and higher risk of domestic violence. Finally, vulnerability to sexual violence particularly within reception centre makes them more at risk of STIs and crisis pregnancies. Travel restrictions due to immigration status can result in illegal abortion,” she added.

“As women are empowered to express their needs, access services and assert their rights in relation to sexual and reproductive health, they not only improve their own health and wellbeing but are also empowered in other areas of their life,” she said.

The training course was undertaken by the IFPA with input from AkiDwA, the national network of African and migrant women living in Ireland.