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Studies have shown that people with cataracts were poorer than controls in terms of assets, self-rated wealth and monthly expenditure than controls with normal vision (Hannah Kuper and Sarah Polack, ICEH/LSHTM)
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Emancipation of girls this International Day of the Girl Child 2014

This image shows Home-Based Educator Sakamma playing with eight-year-old Sangeetha, who has cerebral palsy,
© Robin Wyatt 2013: see www.robinwyatt.org
Home-Based Educator Sakamma has been able to help eight-year-old Sangeetha, who has cerebral palsy, improve her fine motor skills by playing with various teaching and learning materials. Photo taken in India, 2013

On International Day of the Girl Child 2014, Sian Tesni from CBM’s advisory working group on Inclusive Education discusses various approaches to ensure the inclusion of girls with disabilities in education, as well as ways to avoid violence and abuse.

Fight against suppression of children and for the right of all children to education

In a year that when we can celebrate Malala Yousafzai being recognised for her fight for the right for education for all, particularly girls education, as the youngest ever Nobel Prize Winner, it is also right that we bear in mind the abuse and violence that many girls suffer in the world today, particularly girls with disabilities. Malala, who has become one of the world’s most powerful advocates of girls’ education after being shot by a Taliban gunman two years ago in Pakistan, draws the world’s attention to the millions of children who remain under attack, and whose right to education is yet to be realised. The other distinguished winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 was Global Campaign for Education co-founder and child labour activist Kailash Satyarthi.

This year the focus of the International Day of the Girl Child focusses on girls subjected to violence, abuse, prejudice and disrespect. Particularly vulnerable are girls with disabilities, and this primarily because of their disability. As such girls with disabilities face their own unique challenges.

Key Facts

This image shows two young African girls ©CBM
Falonne (right) was affected by bilateral congenital cataract and had successful cataract operation in St. Joseph Hospital, DR Congo. Here she is seen along with her sister Plamedie.
•    Up to 20% of women globally have a disability (1)
•    Women and girls with a disability face triple discrimination, being female, having a disability and being among the poorest of the poor (2)
•    A significant majority of girls with a disability in developing countries remain illiterate (3)
•    Women with a disability are 2 to 3 times more likely to be victims of physical and sexual abuse than women without a disability (4)
•    60 million girls are sexually assaulted at or on their way to school every year. South Africa and Uganda are countries which have developed programme to combat this situation (5)

According to the World Report on Disability persons with disabilities are at greater risk of being exposed to violence. Girls and women with disabilities in institutionalised settings have a higher prevalence of violence and abuse, particularly those with multiple disabilities, communication difficulties or intellectual disabilities.

Adolescent girls with disabilities often don’t have access to information on sexual and reproductive health, preventing and managing gender-based violence and preventing sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV/AIDS). They need to be included, but with the information made available in accessible language (e.g. signed communication, visual, Braille).

Violence against girls with disabilities is common in educational settings, with girls with disabilities less likely to attend schools. Students with disabilities often become the targets of violent acts including physical threats and abuse, verbal abuse, and social isolation. Deaf children are particularly vulnerable to abuse because of their difficulties with spoken communication.

What can be done?

There is no one solution rather different types solutions need to be applied in combination in different context and some solutions have stronger evidence for their effectiveness than others. The following are possible ideas:

•    Conflict and fragility: ensuring that the needs of girls with disabilities are specifically considered.
•    Economic: financial incentives to girls with disabilities and their families to ensure that they complete education
•    Social-Cultural: locally led social change that increases the value placed on girls’ education through community awareness.
•    Educational: female teachers (particular those with disabilities), catch-up programmes for drop-outs etc.
•    Physical: more learning opportunities close to where girls live, separate water and sanitation facilities reflecting the needs to girls and women with disabilities, dedicated girls’ safety programmes. measures to reduce violence against girls within and outside the school environment.

(1) Heinicke-Motsch, K. & Sygall, S. (2004). Building an Inclusive Disability Community: A manual on including people with a disability in international development projects. Mobility International USA.
(2) United Nations Population Fund. (2005). Promoting Gender Equality. Retrieved from http://www.unfpa.org/gender/
(3) Inclusion International. (2006) - Inclusive Education.
(4) Department for International Development [DFID]. (2000). Disability, Poverty and Development.
(5) Action Aid 2010 Destined to Fail

More reading

Inclusion Made Easy

A guide for programme staff in international development organisations on how to ensure programmes are disability inclusive


'Inclusive Education is our primary goal'

Sian Tesni and Katharina Pfortner discuss CBM’s approach to ensuring that all persons with disabilities have access to quality education.


Rights of girls with disabilities to education

CBM recently made submission to the CEDAW committee recommending cooperation on the rights of women and girls with disabilities to education


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