Tag Archives: IDPD

International Day of People with Disabilities: Include Us

This post has been written by Elle Spring is an Advocacy and Communications Officer at CBM Australia. Her passion is storytelling for change and she has recently returned from collecting stories of the lived experiences of people with disabilities in Vanuatu.

Globally, one billion people have a disability, and 80 per cent live in developing countries. In developing countries, women comprise three quarters of people with disabilities. Women and girls with disabilities are disproportionately represented and are often the furthest left behind.

To mark International Day of People with Disabilities (IDPD) on 3 December 2017, CBM has created a video to highlight their unique experience, the contributions they have to make, and the importance of including women and girls with disabilities in all development efforts.


Meet Nelly from Vanuatu; a leader, an advocate and the National Coordinator of Vanuatu Disability Promotion and Advocacy Association (VDPA) – the national Disabled People’s Organisation.

Nelly, the National Coordinator of Vanuatu Disability Promotion and Advocacy Association (VDPA)

Nelly, the National Coordinator of Vanuatu Disability Promotion and Advocacy Association (VDPA) ©Erin Johnson/CBM Australia

“I’m happy that I am a woman with disabilities and I am a leader…I’m not only advocating for me, but for my members as well.

However, this is not common. “In Vanuatu, you hardly see women with disabilities leading different organisations. It’s really hard because of the barriers they face.”

Women and girls with disabilities face multiple layers of discrimination; creating barriers which stop them from achieving their full potential.

“Women with disabilities face double, and most times triple discrimination, because they are a woman, and they have a disability, and the abuses they face or the discrimination they face in society.”

“When you come out from your house and someone is staring at you, its discrimination already and you feel like you’re not part of the community – that’s what our women and girls with disabilities are facing in the community.”

Women and girls with disabilities are often hidden away by families, excluded from decision-making – even about their own bodies – and are less likely to attend school than girls without disabilities. In developing countries just 32.9 per cent of girls with disabilities complete primary school.

“Most of our women and girls [with disabilities] have not had education, they are left at home.”

Without education, it makes securing formal employment far more difficult, especially when many women and girls with disabilities are unaware of their rights.

“Most women with disabilities, they are volunteers – they do work without any pay and we always advocate for their rights. If this lady did the same work as a woman without disability, you need to pay her the same amount.”

“Women and girls with disabilities should know their rights. They need to know they have the same rights as anyone else. They have to be empowered and live as anyone else.”

The United Nations (UN) theme for International Day of People with Disabilities this year is: Transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all. It draws attention to the changes that must be made to ensure the 2030 Agenda – which aims to leave no one behind – can be realised. As former Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon stated:

To be truly transformative, the post-2015 development agenda must prioritise gender equality and women’s empowerment. The world will never realise 100 per cent of its goals if 50 per cent of its people cannot realise their full potential.

Without including women and girls with disabilities in all development efforts, the inclusive world envisioned by the 2030 Agenda cannot be achieved, and women and girls with disabilities will continue to be furthest left behind.

“We need to work towards a society that is inclusive, barrier-free and rights-based for all. Women with disabilities need to become leaders for tomorrow. We are agents of change.”

“If more women with disabilities are taking leadership positions and advocating for the rights of women and girls with disabilities, and all people with disabilities, I believe that we will not leave anyone behind. Include us!”

Persons with Disabilities, DRR and Humanitarian Action

On December 3rd – the International Day of Persons with Disabilities – I had the opportunity to present twice at the United Nations. First, I gave a statement on persons with disabilities, DRR and the process to Sendai at a UN press conference. This was organised to promote persons with disabilities to media outlets and was well attended and received. I presented on behalf of CBM and our partner, The International Disability Alliance. With the quick collaboration of Valérie Scherrer, Gordon Rattray and IDA we were able to compose a strong statement in no time. Thanks, colleagues! You can read the press release here and watch the press conference here.

Alt="Speaking at the UN on December 3rd"

Speaking at the UN on December 3rd

Afterward, I was part of a panel discussion on “the Promise of Technologies: Disability-Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction and Humanitarian Action.” This event was organized by UN DESA and co-sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations and the Nippon Foundation.

H.E. Ambassador Motohide Yoshikawa, Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations gave the opening remarks and Dr. Hiroshi Kawamura, focal point on disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction, International Organizing Committee on disaster risk reduction, moderated the panel. My fellow panellists included the inspirational Ms. Akiko Fukuda, Secretary-General of the World Federation of the Deafblind, Japan and the informative Ms. Elina Palm, Liaison Officer of the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) office in New York.

I was very honoured to be included in this panel and learned quite a bit from the others. Ms. Fukuda provided moving words and asked the audience if we truly are enjoying our lives. Her powerful words were quite touching. She had an excellent quote about persons with disabilities and technology: “people create technology, but technology does not create people.”

Alt="Ms. Fukuda speaking about persons with disabilities and DRR."

Ms. Fukuda speaking about persons with disabilities and DRR.

The following day I presented in Washington D.C. at an event sponsored by the InterAction Gender in Humanitarian Action Working Group over “Hidden Populations: Improving Your Impact for the Most Marginalized.” The event explored “hidden populations” in humanitarian and development work. Examples of hidden populations in the panel discussion included persons with disabilities, older people and LGBTI individuals. We touched upon how particular parts of populations are always present, with specific needs, but not highly visible. I presented with Bethany Brown, Policy Director, HelpAge USA (who kindly invited me to be part of this panel) and Rachel Levitan, Senior Counsel, Refugees and Migration, HIAS. This event was a lovely way to learn from other marginalized populations and find common ground.

I’ll end on this powerful quote, once again, from Ms. Fukuda: “Let people like me out of their houses and into their communities and small steps will create big change.”


Inclusion of pyschosocial disabilities at the UN

In celebration of the UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities, on 2 December the UN hosted a panel discussion titled “Mental well-being and disability: toward accessible and inclusive SDGs.” This event was co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Argentina and Bangladesh to the UN.

Panellists included:

  • Mr. Mateo Estreme, Deputy Permanent Representative from the Argentine Mission to the UN
  • Ms. Saima Wazed Hossain, Chair of the National Advisory Committee on Autism in Bangladesh
  • Dr. Atsuro Tsutsumi, UNU-IIGH
  • Video message from WHO
  • Professor Harry Minas, University of Melbourne
  • Ms. Laura Upans, Justice Canada

The presentations highlighted attention to psychosocial disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorder and development with a particular focus on the role of the SDGs. The panellists focused on practical strategies and actions for mainstreaming psychosocial disabilities and all disabilities in development priorities.

Alt="Three panellists"

Three panellists

Some panellists had personal stories to share, such as Mr. Estreme who talked about his child with an autism spectrum disorder and Ms. Hossain who shared the personal story that her mother-in-law committed suicide.

Compelling points:

  • 18.4% of the total population of children in Bangladesh has psychosocial disabilities (Ms. Saima Wazed Hossain)
  • In Bangladesh, 16.1% of adults have a psychosocial disability (Ms. Saima Wazed Hossain)
  • Death by suicide is two-thirds higher than war-related deaths (Dr. Atsuro Tsutsumi)
  • Suicide is the leading cause of death among young girls (Dr. Atsuro Tsutsumi)
  • Indirect cost of mental health is more than 4% of GDP (Dr. Atsuro Tsutsumi)

Globally, an estimated one in two people will experience a psychosocial disability in their lifetime and annually, approximately one million people die from suicide, which is higher than the number of deaths related to war or murder. The economic, social and health impacts of psychosocial disabilities are pervasive and can lead to poverty, high unemployment rates and poor educational and health outcomes. In particular, there is significant stigma and discrimination against persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities, in particular in disaster and conflict settings, protection of persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities can be neglected (UN DESA, 2014). Let’s leave no one behind in the global development agenda, including persons with psychosocial disabilities.

Click here for a video of the event.