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According to the Zambia National Disability Survey (2015), as estimated 7.7% of the population are persons with disability, with prevalence among young people (2–17 years) estimated at 4.4%, including adolescent girls.

Girls with disabilities often face key barriers that prevent them from accessing essential health information and services, including sexual and reproductive health services. This situation remains a huge challenge particularly for girls in rural and underserved communities, many of whom remain unware of their rights and thus denying them the power to make informed choices about their own lives.

Empowering girls with disabilities

In Senanga district of Western Zambia, the Young Women Christian Association (YWCA), with support from UNFPA, have established safe spaces for girls with disabilities. The safe spaces are a mentorship platform that provide girls with information on sexual and reproductive health (including prevention of teenage pregnancy and child marriage) and empowers them with life skills.

Trained mentors conduct sessions with the girls using sign language and other forms of interactive methodologies. Safe spaces have proved to be an effective means to eliminate barriers that prevent girls with disabilities from accessing key information and services they require to develop to their full potential.

“Attending the safe space mentorship sessions has helped me to understand a lot of things on how to take care of myself, avoid teenage pregnancy and say no to child marriage so that I can complete my education and become a better person” says 16 year old Agnes Muyunda, who is living with physical disability.

Sharing remarks during a visit to the safe space, UNFPA Zambia Deputy Representative, Mr Leonard Kamugisha underscored "Disability should never deny girls of their rights to information and services, which empowers them to make informed choices about their lives. Affirming disability rights in sexual and reproductive health programming remains a key priority for UNFPA and its partners in Zambia to ensure that no one is left behind" he said.