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25% of individuals develop one or more psychosocial disabilities at some stage in life
Read about CBM and community mental health

International women’s day – a time to remember the vulnerability of women with disabilities

a group of 20 woman with various disabilities posing, four woman are using assistive devices, the others are standing in the back or kneeling in the foreground
Training participants together with Mr. Paul Caswell. The training was held in CBM Training centre Mkar-Gboko Benue State. The topic was: how the women can build their self esteem.

Women are still at greater risk of disability and exclusion. The WHO estimates that 30 women every minute are seriously injured or disabled during labour, making a large amount of women vulnerable to disability and exclusion. Inspite of this, woman with disabilities remain largely invisible in the international development agenda. In order to redress this, CBM calls for the inclusion of women with disabilities in the new development goals post 2015.

Women are still at greater risk of disability and exclusion

Today, March 8th is International Women’s Day. Every year, it is celebrated worldwide to acknowledge the contribution made by women in all areas of life. Along with the celebration of women’s lives is also the recognition that many women continue to face discrimination and human rights violations on a daily basis. Included in this group are women and girls with disabilities who are subjected to multiple discrimination, in that they not only face discrimination and exclusion from the perspective of having a disability, but also from being a women/girl.

First of all, gender is recognised as a risk in acquiring a disability. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that more than 30 women every minute are seriously injured or disabled during labour, rendering large numbers of women in the developing world physically disabled and socially excluded. Also, while being female increases the incidence of poverty and impairment, women and girls with disabilities are excluded from the majority of development interventions on the basis of their gender and disability.

Addressing the invisibility of women with disabilities in development

6 women sitting in a circle having a meeting ©CBM
This womens self help group is run almost independently by the women with the aid of a community facilitator. Members of the group were mothers of children with disabilities and other women from the community. The community facilitator is employed from a recipient community. She discusses good nutrition, hygiene and other issues which are relevant to mothers.
According to Human Rights Watch, “Women and girls with disabilities have largely been invisible within the international development agenda. Efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals – including those on poverty, education, HIV, and gender equality – will fall short unless governments and UN agencies include women and girls with disabilities in their programs, planning, and decision-making”.

Women and girls with disabilities have not only been invisible in international development frameworks but also in international human rights treaties. Until the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD), there was no legally binding international law that explicitly named women and girls with disabilities as requiring protection. The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) while having obligations for achieving equality between men and women and prohibiting discrimination against women; did not explicitly make reference to women with disabilities. This prompted the international women with disabilities lobby to call for a specific article in the CRPD and a twin-track approach to issues facing women and girls with disabilities by focusing on the principles of promoting gender equality while also recognising the specific needs of women with disabilities.

CBM work is committed to improving the quality of life of persons with disabilities in low-income regions of the world through inclusive development – this includes women and girls with disabilities. As an organisation, we recognise that gender and disability are inextricably linked and many of our programmes/projects are specifically targeted towards women with disabilities. For example, read about our work in Nigeria and also Nepal.

Ending violence against women with disabilities

The United Nations theme for this year's International Women’s Day is “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women”. The subject of violence against women and girls with disabilities has recently received increased recognition through the publication of a report called Triple Jeopardy , a research project by CBM Australia. This is a very welcome report and provides evidence of how women and girls with disabilities are impacted by violence.

CBM will continue to work with partners and Disabled Peoples Organisations to improve the lives of women and girls with disabilities through our programmes and also our advocacy. Recently, CBM made a submission to the OHCHR addressing the invisibility of women and girls with disabilities in international development and also human rights instruments.

Recommendations and conclusions

In conclusion, it is useful to highlight two key recommendations, both of them focusing on human rights and development – two key areas that can bring about real change for women and girls with disabilities. The first recommendation focuses on the development framework that will emerge post 2015, CBM has suggested that new gender oriented goals/objectives be inclusive of women with disabilities. The second recommendation focuses on protecting the rights of persons with disabilities and calls for closer cooperation between UN committee monitoring persons with disabilities and the UN committee monitoring women’s rights.

Related publications

Triple Jeopardy

Gender-based violence and human rights violations experienced by women with disabilities in Cambodia - an AusAID Research Policy Paper


United Nations CRPD

The purpose of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is to promote, defend and reinforce the human rights of all persons with disabilities


Inclusive Development

How CBM works for an inclusive world in which all persons with disabilities enjoy their human rights and achieve their full potential



Inclusive development - the key to improving the lives of women with disabilities

portrait of Patience Ogolo


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