Tag Archives: UN CRPD

CSW61: Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work

The sixty-first session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61) took place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 13 to 24 March 2017. Representatives of Member States, UN entities, and ECOSOC-accredited non-governmental organizations from all regions of the world attended the session. The themes of CSW61 included: (1) the priority theme ofWomen’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work,” (2) the review theme over “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls (agreed conclusions of the fifty-eighth session),” and (3) the emerging issue/Focus area on “The empowerment of indigenous women.” CSW61 and its themes tie in nicely with CBM’s work on gender equality, specifically addressing multiple and intersectional discrimination encountered by women and girls with disabilities.

The outcome of the Commission’s consideration over the priority theme took the form of agreed conclusions, negotiated by all States. Click here to read the advanced unedited version of the agreed conclusions. The agreed conclusions include 13 explicit references to persons with disabilities. These include a reference to the UN Convention on the Rights to Persons with Disabilities (para 2), para 30 (social protection policies and infrastructure development), para 38 (labor force and inclusion in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda; 2 references), para k (strengthening education, training and skills development), para t (implementing economic and social policies for women’s economic empowerment), para w (health systems), and para dd* (empowerment; 6 references).

Side Event

On 21 March, I participated in a CSW61 side event on behalf of CBM. The event, organized by the stellar organization Women Enabled International, focused on “Intersectionality and SRHR: Key to Ensuring Successful Implementation of SDGs for All.” The goal of the event was to ensure that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) achieve their objectives to end poverty and improve equality for all and that the implementation of the Goals must incorporate an intersectional lens to give full effect to the notion that this is truly “for all.”

It was truly a pleasure to be included in such a dynamic panel of activists and academics. Thank you, Stephanie Ortoleva and Women Enabled International for including me in the event! Please continue reading for a summary of my presentation.


  • Persons with disabilities comprise 15 percent of the world’s population or 1 billion people of whom 80 percent live 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 be the most marginalized.
  • Women and girls with disabilities encounter additional barriers, including exclusion from participating 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.
  • Women and girls with disabilities face barriers in accessing healthcare services, including higher costs, lack of accessible transportation, and inadequately trained medical staff, and preconceptions about whether they need certain services, such as sexual and reproductive health services.
  • 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.

Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and persons with disabilities

  • The SRHR of persons with disabilities is not well recognized and needs specific attention.
  • Disability activists focusing on SRHR often lack resources and opportunities due to invisibility and stigmatization.
  • Technical language and processes often are not accessible, which further excludes women with disabilities.

Suggestions to ensure more inclusive/intersectionality of SRHR programs

  • Have increased participation, engagement, and trainings with SRHR experts in the gender and disability movements to learn, exchange, build on intersections, and engage in collaborative advocacy between movements.
  • Understand the connections and intersections between SRHR and disability. Organizations such as ARROW have written on disability rights and SRHR, are thinking of creating accessible formats of publications for persons with disabilities, and dedicating publications on issues of disability and SRHR.
  • Consider different types of disabilities, contexts, and geographical locations when including SRHR into programs.
  • Be aware of and sensitive to the different layers of intersectionality and multiple discrimination of women with disabilities, especially including Indigenous, youth, older, and other groups of women with disabilities.
  • Link programs with global frameworks, such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs, specifically with Goal 3 on healthy lives and well-being and Goal 5 on gender equality. These Goals are crosscutting in nature regarding women, women and girls with disabilities, and SRHR.
  • Apply the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs within the frameworks of the legally binding Convention on the Rights to Persons with Disabilities and Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), to create an effective platform from which to push for positive change, particularly when addressing the challenges encountered by women and girls with disabilities in health care and SRHR.

In closing, the common thread among the different movements represented (women and girls, persons with disabilities, LGBTQI, youth, Indigenous, climate change, and more) is that we must have inclusion, empowerment, and build cross-movement collaboration to truly “leave no one behind.”


*The full text of paragraph dd: Promote gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls with disabilities and the full realization of their human rights and their inclusion in society, and take measures to ensure that women with disabilities have access to decent work on an equal basis with others in the public and private sectors, that labour markets and work environments are open, inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities, and take positive measures to increase employment of women with disabilities and eliminate discrimination on the basis of disability with regard to all matters concerning all forms of employment, including recruitment, retention, promotion, and safe, secure, and healthy working conditions, in consultation with relevant national mechanisms and organizations of persons with disabilities.”


Additional information

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

Five Perspectives on Gender Equality

Women with Disabilities Are Women Too

Enforcing the Rights of Women with Disabilities

SDG 5: Gender equality and Disability Inclusive Development in the SDGs


India to get new act for persons with disabilities

In a promising win for millions of persons with disabilities in India, a bill that had been pending for two years in Parliament was passed on the very last day of business for the Winter Session in the Lok Sabha on 16th December.

The bill paves the way for a new act for the rights of persons with disabilities and will replace the two-decade-old the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.

The news brought relief and ushered a wave of enthusiasm among disability organisations and activists who had been holding peaceful vigils over the past month or so to remind the parliamentarians that the bill should not get delayed for the next session. The Winter Session had witnessed stormy scenes resulting from divided opinions over the much discussed demonetisation move by the government.

A rare unity

It was heartening to see that members, cutting across party lines, decided to unite ensure that the much awaited bill is passed. The concensus also highlights the positive changes that have taken place since the Disability Act 2015 came into force with both the policymakers and political leadership in the country showing stronger concern for rights and participation of persons with disabilities.

In fact, the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament, passed the bill within two hours after a short debate. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also present in the house during this period. Earlier on Wednesday, the Rajya Sabha too had witnessed similar bonhomie for passage of The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014.

A new phase of empowerment

The bill ushers in a more progressive policy and legal framework for the government, organisations and persons with disabilities to achieve inclusion and equal rights for persons with disabilities.

“The New Act will bring our law in line with the United National Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), to which India is a signatory. This will fulfill the obligations on the part of India in terms of UNCRD. Further, the new law will not only enhance the Rights and Entitlements of Divyangjan but also provide an effective mechanism for ensuring their empowerment and true inclusion into the Society in a satisfactory manner.” says a text from the Prime Minister’s official website.

Among the salient features of the bill is disability being defined as an evolving and dynamic concept and the types of disabilities being increased from seven to 21. It is important to underline that while some of the specific reservations and affirmative actions have been earmarked for persons with disabilities based on degree of disability defined in the law, the bill takes a much wider view of disability and the dynamic social group that it constitutes.

Though the 2011 national census identified 2.6 percent of India population constituting of people with disabilities, there has been a persistent demand for making a higher allocation of resources and reservation in jobs/education for persons with disabilities. Though the bill provides for reservation in vacancies in government establishments from the existing 3% to 4%, this is short of 5% that disabled peoples’ organisations were demanding.

Accessibility has emerged as a key policy and public campaign agenda for the government of India with its flagship Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan or Accessible India Campaign. The bill calls for strengthening the campaign and institutionalises this through a focus on accessibility in public buildings (both Government and private) in a prescribed time frame.

A provision that has generated mixed reactions is related to penal action mandated for offenses committed against persons with disabilities. The disabled peoples’ organisations feel that the wording of the statement related to it leaves a lot to subjective interpretation as it says ‘discrimination against a disabled person (would not be punishable) if it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’.

The bill specifically mentions women and girls with disabilities and acknowledges that ‘special measures’ should be undertaken to protect the rights of women and children with disabilities.

The women’s rights groups, however, feel disappointed with the lack of specifics, as they had been asking for the incorporation of a separate subsection that would address the needs of women with disabilities following the guidelines set out by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Read a summary of key provisions of The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014, on Prime Minister Modi’s web portal.

Opening doors for positive change that will end discrimination and ensure our freedom and rights


The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, together with its Optional Protocol (which provides for the right of individual petition to the Committee), was adopted on 13th December 2006. The Convention rapidly came into force in May 2008, and has retained its momentum in rate of ratifications – to date 170 countries have ratified the Convention.  See a map of country ratifications here.
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, you can read about many global activities, along with highlights over the last 10 years here.  The United Nation’s annual photograph and film festival on 3rd December showcases the best global contributions, and includes a short film by CBM Australia linking the Sustainable Development Goals and disability rights.
CBM International supported the design of the official Office of the High Commission for Human Rights logo and animated icons for the 10th anniversary, as well captioning and sign language for a film by members of the Expert Committee on the Convention, and a beautiful musical recital by Dame Evelyn Glennie in Geneva.

Musical recital by Dame Evelyn Glennie in Geneva

Musical recital by Dame Evelyn Glennie in Geneva

Today is a time to reflect on the participation of persons with disabilities, and their representative organisations who inspired the drafting process of the Convention. The United Nations General Assembly in New York constantly supported the active involvement of disability organizations in the drafting of the Convention. A broad coalition of organisations of persons with disabilities and allied NGOs formed the International Disability Caucus, the unified voice of organizations of people with disabilities from all regions of the world. One of its members stated that its goal was “to open doors for positive change that will end discrimination and ensure our freedom and rights”. The level of participation of organisations of persons with disabilities and NGOs in the drafting process was probably unprecedented in United Nations human rights treaty negotiations. By the Ad Hoc Committee’s final session, some 800 organisations of persons with disabilities were registered.
Beyond the negotiations, organisations of persons with disabilities have been actively involved in the lifecycle of the Convention. They were closely involved in the signing ceremony on 30 March 2007 and have been involved in the work of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Conference of States Parties and the Human Rights Council’s annual debates on the Convention. I have been a member of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities since 2013.


Please join in the celebration the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons with disabilities.

Los ODS y las personas con discapacidad en Perú

Muchas gracias, Alba de la traducción! (Para la versión inglés clic aquí/For the English versión click here: “The SDGs and persons with disabilities in Peru.”)

El 22 y 23 de Agosto, Alba Gonzalez y yo proporcionamos un curso de capacitación nacional sobre la Agenda 2030 y los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible (ODS) y la Convención de los Derechos de las Personas con Discapacidad (CDPD) de la ONU en Lima (Perú), financiado por CBM. La presentación se dirigió a los líderes de las organizaciones de personas con discapacidad y sus aliados, algunos de ellos miembros de CBM. Aunque he dado diversos cursos de capacitación sobre los ODS este año, éste fue el primero en español. Esto es extremadamente importante ya que América Latina a menudo es apartada de los procesos sobre desarrollo a nivel global, particularmente en lo referido a los ODS. Estoy orgullosa de haber llevado a cabo este curso junto con mi compañera Alba quien trabaja desde Bruselas, así como de haber tenido el apoyo de mi compañera Gonna quien trabaja en Guatemala. Muchas gracias a las dos por el magnífico trabajo y apoyo!

Cursos de capacitación a nivel nacional sobre los ODS como este son increíblemente valiosos ya que CBM y otras organizaciones de la sociedad civil que trabajan en la Agenda 2030 tienen la responsabilidad de asegurar que los principales actores están informados y que son capaces de contribuir de una manera significativa. Una manera de conseguir esto es proveer un intercambio de información así como herramientas para las estrategias de incidencia política relativas a la implementación de los ODS.

El curso fue interactivo y ofreció un espacio para un diálogo constructivo en el que las ideas, aprendizajes y sugerencias fueron compartidos. Presentamos una información general sobre cómo los ODS y la CDPD están conectados y cómo éstos se refuerzan y complementan para la incidencia política. Además, dimos información sobre el contexto de seguimiento global y los procesos de revisión con una recapitulación del Foro Político de Alto Nivel (HLPF) de este año, las lecciones aprendidas del proceso de las revisiones voluntarias nacionales (VNR), las estrategias y cómo involucrarse en futuros HLPF. Finalmente, dimos un modelo de incidencia política nacional para la inclusión de las personas con discapacidad en la implementación nacional de los ODS.

Perú es un país estratégico que apoyar, ya que es muy probable que contribuya con una revisión voluntaria nacional en el Foro Político de Alto Nivel de los próximos años y las personas con discapacidad deben involucrarse en el proceso de consultación nacional. Los gobiernos de América Latina que han sido revisados este año en el HLPF – Colombia, México y Venezuela – no contaron con la sociedad civil durante dicho proceso, incluyendo las personas con discapacidad, de forma que ésta es una región con una importancia particular que hay que apoyar.

Alt="Alba, Elizabeth, y líder de la OPD en la formación en Perú"

Alba, Elizabeth, y líder de la OPD en la formación en Perú

Durante el curso, los participantes ofrecieron diferentes ejemplos de las barreras que las personas con discapacidad encuentran en el país para llevar a cabo una incidencia política efectiva:

  • Hay una falta de información accesible sobre incidencia política para las personas con discapacidad y sus familias a nivel nacional y regional
  • La sociedad en general tiene una falta de conocimiento y una actitud negativa o centrada en el modelo médico sobre las personas con discapacidad
  • Hay escasez de estadísticas disponible y fiable sobre las personas con discapacidad
  • Hay una falta de transparencia en el gobierno
  • En áreas rurales, hay acceso limitado a la tecnología e Internet debido a la falta de electricidad
  • Se necesita capacitación sobre estrategias de incidencia política
  • La mayoría de las personas con discapacidad viven en estado de pobreza e incluso pobreza extrema
  • Hay un limitado transporte que sea accesible, asequible y fiable
  • Hay una participación limitada de las personas con discapacidad en redes más generales de la sociedad civil y las organizaciones de la sociedad civil a nivel general no siempre incluyen a las organizaciones de personas con discapacidad
  • Los grupos de personas con discapacidad pueden aislarse centrándose en un tipo de discapacidad y no siempre colaboran como una coalición más amplia
  • Puede existir una falta de empoderamiento y capacidad de liderazgo en las organizaciones de personas con discapacidad

El grupo dio diversas sugerencias sobre cómo efectuar una incidencia política para la inclusión de las personas con discapacidad en la implementación de los ODS:

  • Identificar puntos de entrada para la incidencia política para las organizaciones de personas con discapacidad en diferentes regiones y niveles de gobierno (municipios, distritos, provincias, regiones y a nivel nacional).
  • Colaborar como un movimiento de discapacidad más amplio para conseguir una incidencia política más efectiva a nivel nacional
  • Construir alianzas con Organizaciones No Gubernamentales (ONG) y sociedades de la sociedad civil de diversas áreas temáticas
  • Las organizaciones de personas con discapacidad de Lima se comprometieron a la implementación de los ODS acorde con la CDPD con los líderes de las organizaciones de personas con discapacidad mediante mesas redondas con organizaciones civiles nacionales así como crear un plan nacional de accesibilidad
  • Llevar a cabo un curso sobre accesibilidad e incidencia política para diferentes líderes de organizaciones de personas con discapacidad para reforzar sus capacidades y unificar el movimiento de discapacidad

Fue un gran placer para mí volver a América Latina, donde he vivido y trabajado, para conocer antiguos y nuevos socios de CBM, así como trabajar y aprender de las organizaciones de personas con discapacidad y sus aliados en Perú. Continuemos los vínculos globales!