Metro Eireann July 16 2009
TWELVE asylum seekers and refugees graduated from a 10-week course focusing on sexual and reproductive health and rights in Dublin last week.
The EU-funded training course was undertaken by the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) with input from AkiDwA, the national network of African and migrant women living in Ireland.
The programme is entitled Majira, which means ‘family planning’ in Swahili, but it can also be translated as ‘seasons'.
Issues such as STIs, HIV/Aids, sexual health, FGM, domestic violence, safe sex and women’s health services were discussed during the course, as were ways to spread awareness.
Seventeen women graduated from a similar course in Limerick.
It is hoped that course participants will pass on the knowledge gained in this course to their communities, improving access to health services, explained Lynn Harnedy, Majira programme officer with the IFPA.
Female refugees and women seeking asylum face unique challenges in achieving sexual and reproductive health, she said.
“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"
She continued: “Vulnerabil-ity 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.”
Currently there are 1,998 women and girls of reproductive age (13–45) living in direct-provision accommodation in Ireland. Approximately 2,500 women living in Ireland have undergone female genital mutilation.
There are 420,000 foreign nationals living in Ireland, representing 10 per cent of the whole population.