How to use media and app technology for SRHR in a health crisis

Written by Ann Gloria Njoki, Deaf Outreach Program, Kenya

This guide was written in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some of the information will not be so relevant to the current situation, but we think this guide offers useful advice to SRHR advocates.

How to engage media and app technology in linking sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) to the current COVID-19 pandemic:

As the world is grappling with COVID-19 pandemic and adopting measures such as lockdown, social distancing and restriction of movement, SRHR advocates have had to adapt to ensure that beneficiaries have a continuous access to SRHR.

This is particularly true for deaf persons as they are often left out from official communications due to inaccessible formats (i.e. absence of interpreters) and inadequate dissemination channels.

They also face increased barriers in their access to SRHR information as well as services due to communications barriers, increasing their vulnerability to sexual abuse.

What did you discover about the challenges that advocates have faced accessing SRHR in this situation?

To follow public health measures during COVID-19, SRHR advocates for persons with disabilities may have to integrate technology in their project delivery to maintain their outreach to beneficiaries.

As an organisation keen on information access, we realised that there was limited accessible information on COVID-19. The pandemic also posed SRHR challenges to deaf girls and women, such as increased vulnerability to gender-based violence (GBV), unwanted pregnancies and lack of menstrual products.

Hence, we developed and uploaded on our app short films of five minutes giving guidance on how to cope, to protect oneself from infection and to access SRHR services.

How those challenges were tackled – what was achieved?

We updated our SRHR–Sign language app and used it to:

  • disseminate reliable COVID-19 information (with direct link to the World Health Organisation [WHO] website) to a wide audience 
  • provide answers to SRHR questions that deaf persons may be having on menstrual health, family planning, condom use and safe abortion. With a wide range of SRHR information in the app, users can choose based on their individual – and evolving – needs.

We also took advantage of the stay-at-home guidance to provide SRHR relevant entertainment with local TV and on our YouTube channel.

What did advocates learn from this experience?

We have learnt the importance of being flexible and open to new methods of work.

By being flexible we were able to quickly update content on our SRHR-Sign Language app to incorporate reliable COVID-19 information, coupled with external online elements such as a direct access to the WHO website and we were able to develop and upload new content linked with increased barriers to SRHR in this context.

New methods of work meant we engaged with online media platforms, such as YouTube and Facebook, as a means to disseminate information and communication.

What are your tips for someone facing the same or similar issues?

We advise that when developing an online platform such as an app, website and or social media platform, you should be in control of all the steps (whether you do it yourself or through a third party). This means that you need to have or learn the credentials and skills to make any changes (upload, remove, edit) yourself, or have skilled volunteers who can guide the process without large financial implications.

Ann Gloria Njoki, Deaf Outreach Program, Kenya

Ann Gloria Njoki is the founder and Director of the Deaf Outreach Program (DEAFOP) a young grassroots disability organisation working toward mainstreaming deaf and disability rights into development. DEAFOP’s main flagship project is the promotion of access to SRHR information through sign language and it does this through various interrelated programmes and innovations.

As a leader of a young, local organisation, one of Ann Gloria’s main responsibilities has been lead the team’s fundraising and to explore various methods of fundraising, including crowdfunding.