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"In Asia Pacific, there are 370 million persons with disabilities, 238 million of them of working age. Their unemployment rate is usually double that of the general population and often as high as 80% or more" - Debra A Perry ‘Disability issues in the employment and social protection, 2002 (sourced in the UN Enable Factsheet on Disability & Employment, 2011)
Read about CBM and Inclusive Development

End the Cycle of Discrimination Against Women with Disabilities

Woman in wheelchair working at a desk
© CDD/CBM Australia
Eti shares her experience as a woman with disability as part of the End the Cycle campaign.

Women with disabilities face multiple levels of discrimination both as women and as persons with disabilities. They are widely recognised as some of the most marginalised people in the world. The End the cycle campaign aims to raise awareness about the double discrimination faced by these women, by giving them an opportunity to tell their own stories.

Women and girls with disabilities are widely recognised as being one of the most marginalised groups in society. They face discrimination on many levels making them increasingly susceptible to poverty.
Women and girls with disabilities fall into the category of holding multiple identities, for example that of being disabled and being a woman both of which contributes to their increased vulnerability to discrimination. While data remains limited on the experience of women and girls with disabilities, the statistics available indicate that the issues faced by these women stem from both the specificities of being a disabled woman and also in many cases, gender discrimination faced by non-disabled women is equally applicable to women with disabilities e.g. wage differentials, lower access to basic services.
The limited evidence that does exist tells us that women and girls with disabilities are more exposed to practices which qualify as torture, inhumane or degrading treatment such as sterilisation[i]. If they are from ethnic or indigenous communities, they are more likely to have to contend with forces that exclude them on the basis of gender as well as disability, culture and heritage[ii] and universally they earn less income than their non-disabled female and disabled male counterparts[iii].

Need for awareness and positive messaging

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities requires that state actors and non-state actors portray positive images of persons with disabilities, an important aspect of this is positive images of women and girls with disabilities. 

The End the Cycle campaign, a partnership between CBM Australia and partners aims to increase awareness about disability, particularly the cycle between poverty and disability by bringing stories from countries such as Bangladesh and Cambodia. The End the Cycle campaign highlights the double discrimination that women with a disability often face, by sharing stories told by women with a disability in their own words, the campaign is a platform for these women to shine a light on how they have overcome this double burden. While the campaign highlights the barriers faced by persons with disabilities, it does so in an engaging way, highlighting important themes facing people with different impairments and different identities. 

Three stories of women with disabilities from End the Cycle

Each of these stories is sourced from the End the Cycle website


My name is Eti. I am fourteen years old and I live in Bangladesh.

From when I was six years old, I have had Rheumatoid Arthritis in my body. All my joints were swelling. I had serious pain, no-one could touch my legs or joints because they were so painful. We tried treatment in different places but all was in vain. My life changed from that time. Read more of ETI’s story.

Kazol Rekha


Opening title - 
End the cycle. of poverty and disability.
A community awareness initiative promoting human rights and empowerment of people with disabilities living in the world's poorest countries.
[People setting-up a set for filming in a village. The whole village is present. A young lady wheels herself into the picture using a wheelchair, she is smiling.] 

My name is Kazol Rekha and I am 23 years old.

In 2003, I had an accident. I fell off a chair and one of my vertebrae slipped and severed my spinal cord. Now I am paralysed.
[Young lady looks anguished as she discusses her paralysis. The film turns to illustrations to show her life story.]

Before the accident my life was good. I was living with my parents and going to school. 
[Illustration of a girl surrounded by her parents and two other men]

And then they both suddenly died. My brothers looked after me and arranged my marriage.
[Parents disappear from the picture, brothers remain. She is married to a man under a floral arch.]

However, after my accident, my husband left me and remarried. It was difficult and painful. I suffered a lot.
[She is alone in a wheelchair under the floral arch.] 

Previously, I was treated with affection by everyone in my family. But that all changed. I was neglected and I became a burden to everyone.
Life became much better for me once I was given my wheelchair. I used to be totally dependent on others but now I can get out and move around.
[Footage of Kazol getting around the village in a wheelchair.]

I received income generation training from a local development agency, in growing vegetables and rearing chickens and ducks then purchased a hand sewing machine and now draw an income by tailoring garments for people in my village.
[Kazol is mending clothe using a hand sewing machine. A client comes in and pays her for her services, then leaves again. Kazol is smiling.]

My house was modified to meet my basic needs, such as sanitation, making safe drinking water and my lavatory accessible. It was also raised to reduce the impact of the floods.
[Kazol goes up to a water pump, she starts using the pump. She then goes back down a accessible ramp in front of a house.]

When it comes to floods and other disasters, people with disabilities are particularly vulnerable. There is generally wide-spread panic and in many cases, a person with a disability is forgotten and left behind. So now I am part of a disaster preparedness committee and we've made a list of all people with a disability in our area and we can take immediate steps to locate and evacuate them.
[Illustration of rain becoming a flood. Villagers escaping to higher grounds. A person in a wheelchair is left behind.]

I am also responsible for educating people about hygiene and general health when the waters hit, such as how to protect their food against insects and contamination. Previously I was afraid of the prospect of flooding, but now that we are prepared, I know what to do and I can face it.
[Illustration of the village, ticks appear identifying certain houses.]
[Footage of Kazol moving towards a group of villages and starts engaging them in a discussion. They are working on storing grains and flour.]

Now I am no longer a burden to my family and I am proud that I am a valuable and contributing member of my community.
[Kazol smiles to the camera. The camera and film crew start packing up the film set and leave.]

End credits -
Join the movement to: end the cycle of poverty and disability.


together we can do more

Australian Government 

End the cycle is an initiative of CBM Australia with support from the Australian Government.

Produced by Room3 for CBM Australia 
Copyright 2012

Kazol Rekha is a young woman living in a village in a flood-prone area of Bangladesh. She was paralysed after an accident severed her spinal cord. In this video she tells about her role on the Disaster Preparedness Committee, making sure people with disability are not forgotten when disaster strikes.

“I was always afraid when there was a prospect of flooding but now we know what to do, so I’m not afraid anymore. If there is a flood, I can face it. I feel proud with my role in the community: people didn’t know what to do and now I’m there to help them learn. I feel good!”  - Kazol Rehka

Sieng Sok Chann



A community awareness initiative promoting the human rights and empowerment of people with disabilities living in the world's poorest countries.

My story, Sieng Sok Chann, Cambodia

Sieng Sok Chann speaking:

My name is Sieng Sok Chann. I am 29 years old.

In the past I used to walk like other people. But when I was 13 in Cambodia was still fighting, I crossed a bridge,
but something hit me in the back and I lost consciousness.

A week later my parents took me for an x-ray and then they realised it was a bullet. It had broken my backbone.

I was studying in grade 8 and I regret that I could not continue my study.



Sieng Sok Chann speaking:

I realised I was a woman with disability, I could not change anything. Many people said to me that my life is very vulnerable like this, why didn't I go to die? Even my father and sister treated me very badly.

So after I suffered a lot from their actions, I decided I must have a good skill to survive.

Many people who get disability like me pass away, because of depression.



Sieng Sok Chann speaking:

The International Labour Organisation came to meet with me and sent me to Phnom Penh centre to get vocational training.

I really expect women who are trained will have skills so have a good life and start up their own business.

I like teaching in the sewing school because I saw that I can train people with disability, so they can have a sustainable life and good job. Now there are a lot of NGOs, especially Battambang Disabled People's Organisation,
I now have social participation. I can play sport, I can do anything with other people, so I am quite happy.

I committed myself to help other women with disability, especially to make myself a strong role model to make sure they are not discriminated against or look down on because of their disability.

I don't want people to say my spirit is disabled, or my capacity is disabled, so I really want to show the world I'm strong.

I know a lot of problems that women with disabilities face in Battambang.

Disability can lead to poverty because of no job. You are more vulnerable in life. Most women with disability in my area are single mothers.



Sieng Sok Chann speaking:

I know that the convention of the rights of people with disability happened and mentions the rights of people with disability, the right to participate, and the right to live without discrimination.

I think it's very good, I really want to see our government pay more attention to people with disability who have no chance to participate in life.

I set up a women's group and we always have a beautician so the public see us as beautiful.

I don't want people to see that I am a person with a disability and look like a beggar. I don't want to become like that. So that if I am a woman with disability, I have freedom to be beautiful like others as well.


End the cycle of poverty and disability (logo).
CBM and Australian Government AusAID (logos)
End The Cycle is an initiative of CBM Australia with support from the Australian government AusAID.

Sieng Sok Chann from Cambodia will inspire you! She's a 29 year old woman with a spinal cord injury, a wheelchair-user, a mother, the leader of a women's group and a beautiful person. This is her story, in her own words...

“One day I hope to start an organisation which will help the women with disability who live vulnerable lives like me, to make better life. I believe that women with disability who have a job to do and have good training, don’t get depressed or feel hopeless in their life.  I like teaching in the sewing school because I see that my knowledge could train people with disability, so they have a sustainable life and good job.” – Sieng Sok Chann.
[i] Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (2009) Declaration: Making gender equality a reality. 119th Session of the Committee of Ministers, Madrid, 12 May 2009.
[ii] Groce, N. (2006), Op Cit.
[iii]  The right to decent work of persons with disabilities, O’Reilly, A. (2007)  International Labour Office (ILO), Geneva..


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