What can a disabled woman do when reproductive health guides and initiatives exclude options and advice for women with disabilities? She can create a personalized guide that offers advice about reproductive and sexual health to disabled women, their healthcare providers, and members of the community.
The Empowered Fe Fes, a young women’s peer support group that is committed to bettering the lives of young women with disabilities, recently announced that they had collaborated to publish “‘Take Charge!’ A Reproductive Health Guide for Women with Disabilities.” The group consists of women and girls with disabilities who are ages 16 and up and live in the Chicago metropolitan area. Participants have an interest in learning more about the issues of disability rights and women’s right and how the issues of the two oppressed groups coincide. The members of the Empowered Fe Fes are known for building and sharing campaigns about disability and women’s rights. At group meetings, discussions often center on gender inequality, self-care, self-advocacy, and disability pride.
The Empowered Fe Fes were inspired to create the guide after learning about the lack of relevant information available to women with disabilities. All the previous information that had been made available to disabled women was either very outdated or disability-specific. There was very little information that was up-to-date, easy to access and relevant to the majority of women with disabilities.
While working to produce the guide, members of the Empowered Fe Fes had the opportunity to learn about and explore their own reproductive and sexual health and provide personal stories as contributions to “Take Charge.” The members also designed the cover art and really took control of making the guide their own.
The young women of The Empowered Fe Fes have created a guide for sexual health that seeks to meet the needs of a community that is often overlooked in conversations regarding sexuality. The guide tackles complex issues for young women with disabilities, who are often seen as unable to determine the course of their own lives and reproduction. The guide effectively provides its readers with the information to advocate for themselves within a healthcare setting and to understand their rights as a person with a disability. “Take Charge” looks at disability as a natural condition, rather than an exception to traditional healthcare. It encompasses a range of issues that a person with a disabiltiy faces and provides helpful tips and solutions to many of these problems. The guide’s topics include everything from access issues at the doctors’ office to carrying a child while disabled.
The one controversy that has been sparked regarding the content of the guide is the lack of LGBTQ+ content. “Take Charge” neglects to address trans women’s issues or sexual orientation specifically.
While the guide clearly has room for improvement, it is nonetheless a great stride forward for women with disabilities and for reproductive justice.
Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.