March 25th: Raising awareness and preventing violence against women and girls with disabilities

The UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign, managed by UN Women, has proclaimed every 25th of the month as “Orange Day,” as a day to take action to raise awareness and prevent violence against women and girls. Today, March 25, 2017, UNiTE is highlighting the issue of violence against women and girls with disabilities. Click here to read more on this campaign. Because of this, I’ve dedicated today’s blog on women and girls with disabilities. Furthermore, CBM’s mandate includes gender equality, which specifically addresses multiple and intersectional discrimination faced by women and girls with disabilities. Please continue reading for more information.


Persons with disabilities comprise 15 percent of the world’s population or 1 billion people of whom 80 percent lives in low- and middle-income countries. Women and girls with disabilities make up at least 50 percent of this population. Persons with disabilities are more likely to live in impoverished conditions and to be the most marginalized.

Women and girls with disabilities encounter additional barriers, including exclusion from participation in a sustainable and inclusive economy; an increased risk of violence and abuse; lack of access to justice; minimal participation in political and public life; and prejudice and discriminatory attitudes in sexual health, reproductive rights and in the right to family life.[1] Additionally, there are barriers for women and girls with disabilities to accessing justice, including with regard to exploitation, violence and abuse, due to harmful stereotypes, discrimination and lack of procedural and reasonable accommodations, which can lead to credibility being doubted and accusations being dismissed.[2] Moreover, women and girls with disabilities are largely invisible in mainstream gender-equality programs.

In terms of violence, women and girls with disabilities are at least two to three times more likely than women and girls without disabilities to experience violence and abuse,[3] and they are likely to experience abuse over a longer period of time, resulting in more severe injuries.[4] Women and girls with disabilities worldwide face a wide range of unique human rights abuses in sexual and reproductive healthcare settings, due to both their gender and disability.[5]

Linked to this, persons with disabilities encounter specific barriers in terms of accessing healthcare services, including higher costs for persons with disabilities, lack of accessible transportation, and inadequately trained medical staff. Moreover, women and girls with disabilities face additional barriers, such as enhanced constraints on traveling independently or preconceptions about whether they need certain services, such as sexual and reproductive health services.[6] An additional challenge for women with disabilities is the design and functionality of assistive devices, which are seldom designed to facilitate the different sizes and preferences of women and the type of work or daily life activities. Instead assistive devices are often designed to answer to the requirements and lifestyle of men.[7]

Studies also suggest that women with disabilities more often seek health care than women without disabilities, but have worse health outcomes and rate their well-being as lower than both men with disabilities and women without disabilities.[8] Seeking health care more often can be costly and even more so if living in poverty,[9] and additionally, women with disabilities spend more of their income on medical care and health-related expenses than men with disabilities.[10] At the same time, women with disabilities often have less disposable income and control over resources, which impact their right to an equal health status and can create a vicious circle of exclusion and ill health. Women with disabilities between the ages of 18 and 44 have almost 2.5 times the yearly healthcare expenditures compared to women without disabilities. And, women with disabilities between the ages of 45 and 64 have more than three times the average yearly expenditures of their counterparts without disabilities.[11]

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and particularly Goal 5 on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls have a key role in creating opportunities for women and girls with disabilities to fulfill their full potential. Moreover, both Article 6 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and General Comment No. 3 recognize that women and girls with disabilities are subjected to multiple discrimination. When addressing the challenges faced by women and girls with disabilities it is imperative to use the SDGs within the frameworks of the legally binding CRPD and Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which create an effective platform from which to advocate for positive change.

I will close with some reflections and suggestions on the empowerment of women and girls with disabilities. First, it is important to be aware of the different layers of intersectionality and multiple discrimination of women and girls with disabilities, especially those such as Indigenous, youth, or other groups of women with disabilities. Second, there needs to be increased participation, engagement, and trainings between the gender movement and the disability movement to learn, exchange, and build on intersections between the movements. And, third, there must be increased and strengthened cross-movement collaboration and multi-stakeholder partnerships to truly “leave no one behind,” including women and girls with disabilities.

Thank you to Mary Keogh, Diane Kingston and Stephanie Ortoleva who contributed to this article in different ways.

Additional Information

Five Perspectives on Gender Equality


[1] CBM (2015). “Dialogues on Sustainable Development: A Disability-inclusive Perspective,” CBM.

[2] CRPD Committee, Gen. Comment No. 3, supra note 2, ¶ 52.

[3] United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Untied States Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally 7 (Aug. 10, 2012),

organization/196468.pdf. It is worth noting that no global data exists on the incidence of such violence, and studies draw on different sources of data.

[4] SRVAW, Report on women with disabilities, supra note 26, ¶ 31.

[5] Women Enabled International Submission to OHCHR: Protection of the Rights of the Child and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, October 17, 2016

[6] CBM (2015). “Dialogues on Sustainable Development: A Disability-inclusive Perspective,” CBM.

[7] Comité Español de Representantes de Personas con Discapacidad (CERMI). (2012). “Guide to gender mainstreaming in public disability policies,” CERMI Collection no 54, Spain: pp. 289-290.

[8] WHO (2004). World Health Survey, 2002-2004.

[9] WHO and World Bank. (2011). ”World Report on Disability,” WHO Press, Geneva, p. 60.

[10] Women With Disabilities Australia. (2016).

[11] Blanchard, J. & Hosek, S. (2003). “Financing Health Care for Women with Disabilities.” A RAND White Paper prepared for the FISA Foundation.

Unidad, Desarrollo, Paz y Esperanza en América Latina y el Caribe

(Haga clic aquí para ver el blog en inglés / Click here for the blog in English)

RIADIS, la Red Latinoamericana de Organizaciones no gubernamentales de Personas con Discapacidad y sus familias, tuvo la VI Conferencia Latinoamericana de RIADIS del 13 al 17 de marzo en la Habana, Cuba. El tema era “Latinoamerica Inclusiva en Unidad, Desarrollo, Paz y Esperanza” con un Congreso Internacional, la Asamblea General de RIADIS y eventos paralelos de los Jóvenes con Discapacidad y Personas Indigenos de Discapacidad. RIADIS se fundó en 2002 en Venezuela y tiene 55 OPD en 15 países en América Latina y el Caribe, muchos de los cuales estaban en la conferencia con aproximadamente 250 participantes. La conferencia tuvo un Congreso Internacional, una Asemblea General y eventos paralelos que se centraron en juventud con discapacidad y personas indígenas con discapacidad. También, comisiones sobre personas indígenas, juventud y mujeres con discapacidad se fundieron durante la conferencia.

El objetivo principal de la conferencia era “continuar avanzando en América Latina y el Caribe en la inclusión efectiva de las personas con discapacidad, desde el trabajo unido y coordinado entre las organizaciones, los gobiernos y otros actores claves en la región, usando la CDPD, los ODS y otras herramientas de monitoreo de Derechos Humanos.” La Convención Internacional sobre los Derechos de las Personas con Discapacidad (CDPD) y la Agenda 2030 para el Desarrollo Sostenible alineado con los temas “nada sobre nosotros sin nosotros” y “nadie se quede atrás.”

Alt="Presentación del panel en la conferencia"

Presentación del panel en la conferencia

Fue un honor presentar en la conferencia regional por CBM. Pude participar de diferentes maneras. Presenté dos veces durante El Congreso Internacional, fui observadora oficial de CBM durante la Asemblea General y di apoyo como intérprete de lengua de señas y español.

En la primera sesión presenté con Victor Baute de Venezuela sobre “Una mirada a la Agenda 2030 desde la perspectiva de la CDPD, y BRIDGE en América Latina.” La presentación realzó los talleres que pasaron con IDA y IDDC (Panamá) y CBM (Perú), pero al mismo tiempo hablé de la importancia y necesidad de tener más capacidad y talleres regionales para las OPD sobre la Convención, la Agenda 2030 y BRIDGE.

Alt="Intérpretes de la Lengua de Señas de la conferencia de RIADIS"

Intérpretes de la Lengua de Señas de la conferencia de RIADIS

Además, presenté el trabajo de CBM en América Latina y el Caribe. Específicamente, CBM tiene 50 proyectos en 11 países en la región. En Centro América, tenemos proyectos en Guatemala, Honduras y Nicaragua; en el Caribe tenemos proyectos en Cuba y Haití; y en Sur de América tenemos proyectos en Bolivia, Brasil, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay y Perú. Aunque trabajamos en 11 países, los países prioritarios son Bolivia, Guatemala y Haití.

Los siguientes son dos ejemplos de proyectos de CBM en la región. En primer lugar, en respuesta al huracán Matthew, CBM suministró agua a las comunidades afectadas por el huracán en el este de Cuba. En segundo lugar, CBM apoyó un proyecto de recopilación de datos sobre la prevalencia de las personas con discapacidad en Guatemala. CBM, CONADI (Consejo Nacional de la Discapacidad de Guatemala) y UNICEF Guatemala fueron financiadores de proyectos con la London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine brindando asistencia técnica. El grupo de Washington sobre Estadísticas de Discapacidad amplió el conjunto de preguntas para adultos y el grupo de UNICEF / Grupo de Washington amplió el conjunto de preguntas para los niños se utilizaron con más de 13.000 participantes. Haga clic aquí para leer más sobre la encuesta. Para terminar, me emocionó mucho la cálida bienvenida del pueblo cubano y de los participantes. Estoy muy agradecida de volver a trabajar en esta región y de conectar nuestro trabajo global a nivel local, nacional y regional.

Unity, Development, Peace and Hope in Latin America and the Caribbean

RIADIS, the Latin American Network of Non-Governmental Organizations of Persons with Disabilities and their Families, held its 6th international conference from 13-17 March in Havana, Cuba. The theme was “Inclusive Latin America, in Unity, Development, Peace and Hope.” RIADIS, founded in 2002 in Venezuela, is comprised of 55 organizations of persons with disabilities (DPOs) from 15 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, many of which were present at the conference with approximately 250 participants in attendance. The conference included an International Congress, a General Assembly, and parallel events on youth with disabilities and Indigenous peoples with disabilities. In addition, commissions on Indigenous, youth, and women with disabilities were established at the conference.

The overall objective of the conference was to continue to promote the progress and achievement of the inclusion of persons with disabilities from Latin America and the Caribbean. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development were both strongly highlighted throughout the conference as key frameworks for persons with disabilities and their representative organizations for the region with the respective aligned themes of “nothing about us without us” and “leave no one behind.”

Alt="Panel presentation at conference"

Panel presentation at conference

I am incredibly honored for the opportunity to attend this conference on behalf of CBM. The experience was a valuable one in which I was able to participate in various ways. I presented twice during the International Congress, was an official observer during the General Assembly, and assisted as a sign language interpreter when needed.

On the opening day, I presented with Victor Baute from Venezuela on the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals. The presentation highlighted the regional trainings by the International Disability Alliance and the International Disability and Development Consortium (in Panama) and CBM (in Peru), but also called for further capacity building and training for regional DPOs linking the CRPD, the 2030 Agenda and BRIDGE.

Alt="Sign Language Interpreters from the RIADIS conference"

Sign Language Interpreters from the RIADIS conference

Additionally, I presented the work of the CBM regional office in Latin America and the Caribbean. Specifically, CBM has 50 projects in 11 countries throughout the region. In Central America we work in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua; in the Caribbean, we work in Cuba and Haiti; and in South America, we have projects in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay with Bolivia, Guatemala and Haiti as priority countries of focus.

The following are two examples of CBM projects in the region. First, in response to Hurricane Matthew, CBM provided water supplies to hurricane-affected communities in East Cuba. Second, CBM supported a data collection project on the prevalence of persons with disabilities in Guatemala. CBM, CONADI (National Disability Council of Guatemala), and UNICEF Guatemala were project funders with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine providing technical assistance. The Washington Group on Disability Statistics extended set of questions for adults and UNICEF/Washington Group extended set of questions for children were used with more than 13,000 participants. Click here to read more about the survey.

In closing, I was very touched by the warm welcome from the Cuban people and the participants. I am so grateful to be working in this region again and to connect our global work to the local, national and regional levels.

Four years and 41 countries later…what it all meant for CBM

Today the Expert Committee on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD Committee) meets for its 17th session.  After working as the UK’s elected member of the Expert Committee of the CRPD for the last four years, what has it all meant for CBM? This summary may give you a flavour of some of the achievements:

  1. The CRPD is a human rights treaty that underpins CBM’s work and our mission statement to contribute to an inclusive world where persons with disabilities enjoy their human rights and achieve their full potential. The Committee is the monitoring and evaluation tool of the CRPD, so having a staff member on the Committee gave CBM the inside track and a global overview of issues, policies and practical implementation of disability rights in a number of countries we work in such as: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Kenya, Paraguay, Thailand and Uganda.  These countries now have concrete recommendations for the government to implement over the forthcoming years.  This means CBM and its partners can hold governments to account to meet their obligations in areas CBM specialises in such as: disability-inclusive development, especially at a community level, mental and physical health, education, livelihoods and emergency response to name a few.  CBM can also demonstrate to governments as duty bearers the important links between human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals in realising Agenda 2030.
  2. CBM supported the work of the Committee by showcasing our partners and their valuable work and ensuring the voices of persons with disabilities from the global South were heard. This has strengthened their capacity to claim their rights and entitlements.  Read more here

    Nassozi Kiyaga from Deaf Link Uganda participates in 15th session of CRPD Committee

    Nassozi Kiyaga from Deaf Link Uganda participates in 15th session of CRPD Committee

  3. Our Member Associations  contributed to the Committee’s work, and these countries now have very strong recommendations on international cooperation and humanitarian action, linked to the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030 – see Germany, Italy and Australia. These governments must honour their commitments to ensure disability is at the heart of their development cooperation.  CBM is considered a serious player in disability-inclusive development, disaster risk reduction and emergency response, and through working on the Committee I was able to provide expert opinion to guide recommendations on articles 11 and 32 (international cooperation and situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies).
  4. CBM had immediate access to the Committee which consolidated its role in building the capacity of both mainstream NGOs and members of the International Disability and Development Consortium to engage in the work of the Committee.
  5. CBM had the kudos and credibility of having a staff member as one of 18 world-recognised Experts on disability, which reflected very positively on the profile of the whole organisation.
  6. CBM were able to open doors that were previously closed with a range of stakeholders including governments. CBM was mentioned by many UN agencies and bodies during the opening of the Committee’s sessions, demonstrating CBM’s leadership especially in relation to the links between human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals.
  7. CBM supported accessibility requirements of Committee’s side events (briefings) by funding sign language interpretation, amongst other things, and raised awareness to celebrate 10 years of the Committee by assisting with the production of a UN video.
  8. Finally, I was one of six women on the Committee, which ensured gender representation and supported the work of CBM on gender equality.  For the next two years, there remains just one woman on the Committee of 18 Members, but please support and advocate for more here.

I wish the Committee and all its Members many great years, and await its fruitful recommendations for the future.  I also thank CBM for supporting me to have the opportunity to engage with and serve the United Nations.