Tag Archives: women and girls with disabilities

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


Lessons learnt from AWID – From disability to gender advocacy perspective

From 8 to 11 September, I had the great opportunity to participate in AWID conference, which took place in Brazil whose topic focused on “Feminist Futures: Building collective power for rights and justice”.

More than 1800 people, most of them active women working for gender equality, met and discussed about many different topics, from sexual violence against women to the impact of discrimination on tax systems. The conference was structured with one plenary session in the morning followed by several parallel sessions targeting different challenges which Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRD) have to face every day. The energy and solidarity approach taken in every plenary session was inspiring to every person who was in the room. The holistic view of what feminism means united all the attendees, who demonstrated their support with supportive applauses. I could feel how a solidarity network was built in the room. We were all different, but we had one common objective: equality.

CBM organised a side event, raising the challenges that women and girls with disabilities face every day. You can read more about it in the great blog written by Mary Keogh, where you can also find information about a video that CBM launched, raising the voices of women with disabilities from all around the world. I attended some sessions focused on the intersectionality of gender and disability. I also attended some other sessions organised by mainstream gender organisations, in which I learnt so much about the challenges that they face in their daily work. During these sessions, I realized about how many things we, as women with disabilities, have in common with the gender mainstream movement and how much we have to learn. However, in these sessions I was the only woman with disability.

Gender mainstream organisations also have much to learn from disability movement. However, I saw very few faces of mainstream organisations when I attended sessions focused on disability and gender. This makes me think that disability and gender movement are not creating good synergies, at least not yet. Women and girls with disabilities have been in a limbo for so much time: we did not fit in disability movement but neither in the gender one. Slowly but surely, we are changing that panorama, we are more present but still there is so much to do. Only one woman with disability was invited to be part of one plenary session. No gender mainstream organisation participated as a speaker when talking about disability and no woman with disability participated in gender mainstream panel, at least not in the sessions I joined. The twin-track approach must be included in our daily work. We have more things in common with gender mainstream movement than we think, we need to knock that door if we want to make real change.

I think we have that challenge for AWID 2020: more women with disabilities in mainstream panels and in the plenary sessions. More equality and more visibility for a more inclusive future for all.

Together we can make change happen

Yesterday was the first day of AWID’s conference and it was a busy morning with 2000 women attending the opening plenary session.

Plenary session 1 of the AWID forum

Plenary session 1 of the AWID forum

CBM’s session on Building Collective Power was scheduled for the first day, and it was a great success. Before the panel began, we got to premiere the video CBM made for the AWID conference. The video filmed across five locations includes the voices of women with disabilities from Pakistan, Guatemala, Nepal, Nigeria, the UK and the US. The video received applause and cheers and we got to show it twice.It will be available online soon.

Once the video was over, each of the speakers on the panel shared their stories. Rama Dhakal from Nepal shared about her experience of building a network of women with disabilities in Nepal and spoke about the challenges women with disabilities face in Nepal.  Madezha Cepeda Bazan from Peru spoke about her work with the disabled women’s organisation Musas Inspiridoras de Cambios. Madezha outlined how she works to challenge the disability movement to be more inclusive of women with disabilities and also the women’s movement to be more inclusive of persons with disabilities. She believes that participation in both movements is key for women with disabilities.

Mia Farah from Lebanon followed Madezha and gave a great speech about her experience as a self-advocate and the challenges she faces as a women with an intellectual disability living in Beirut. Our final speaker was Leona Tamainai from the Pacific Disability Forum (PDF)  who gave a great presentation on the work of PDF on gender and disability.


Mia Farah

Mia Farah

We were delighted to have an engaged audience who asked the panelists for their views on how the media represents women with disabilities, how donors and development partners can be more inclusive of women with disabilities and how we can ensure that the women who are the hardest to reach are not left behind.

The panelists: (from left to right): Madezha, Rama, Mia and Leona

The panelists: (from left to right): Madezha, Rama, Mia and Leona


Again I’d like to give thanks to Rama Dhakal, Madezha Cepeda Bazan, Leona Tamainai and Mia Farah. I will give the last few words of this blog over to Mia from her insightful presentation –  MY LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL BECAUSE MY DECISIONS ARE SUPPORTED.


Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and our website to get all the latest news about the AWID meetings! Furthermore have a look at our brochure on the issues, challenges and the inclusion of women with disabilities.

Building the collective power of women with disabilities – AWID Forum 2016

Greetings from beautiful Salvador in Brazil, where the AWID (Association of Women in Development) conference is about to start. CBM is attending with a delegation of women with disabilities coming from a number of different countries – Madagascar, Nepal, Peru, Lebanon, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Nigeria. We are looking forward to chairing a panel and also premiering a video on women with disabilities that has been filmed across a number of different countries.

On the eve of the conference, many of our delegates watched as hundreds of women from all over the world arrived to register for the 4-day conference. It was great to see so many women with disabilities arriving at the hotel, many of whom we haven’t met before and look forward to meeting over the coming days. As the final conference preparation got under way this afternoon we got to sit and talk with women with disabilities representing the Pacific Islands.

Mary Keogh - Senior Advisor on Disability and Gender Equality (second from right) and Maegan Shanks - DID learning coordinator from CBM’s DID team (right) meet with women with disabilities from the Pacific Islands.

Mary Keogh – Senior Advisor on Disability and Gender Equality (second from right) and Maegan Shanks – DID learning coordinator from CBM’s Disability Inclusive Development team (right) meet with women with disabilities from the Pacific Islands.

The theme of the AWID conference this year is Building Collective Power for Rights and Justice and the sessions over the coming days will focus on panels covering a wide range of topics. It is very encouraging to see that women with disabilities feature on many of these panels, some on disability specific panels (such as CBM’s panel – Building the collective power of women with disabilities) and others on mainstream panels discussing topics such as climate change and gender and media representation of women with disabilities.

Building collective power for rights and justice is important for women, men, girls and boys with disabilities. We are more powerful when we work with others. Through partnerships, building alliances and supporting voices that are representative, change can slowly happen. These type of strategies are part of how CBM works – particularly partnership. We look forward to building on this partnership approach with the allies we meet here at AWID.

For today, I will sign off with a thought from one of the women who is featured on the CBM video – Achieving long lasting change does not come from one voice or one person alone – it comes from an aggregation of voices. We cannot achieve equality and justice for all if we do it on our own.

Over the coming days at the AWID conference, we will be looking at ways to work with the many different equality groups that are here. We are here to be part of an agenda for change and we are looking forward learning and sharing with each other on the nuts and bolts of how we do this.

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and our website to get all the latest news about the AWID meetings! Furthermore have a look at our brochure on the issues, challenges and the inclusion of women with disabilities.