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I would like to see women with disabilities becoming involved in political movements

© CBM/Hayduk
CBM's Country Director for Togo and Benin, Laure Akofa Tay, speaks at a self help group for mothers with disabled children in Lomé, Togo. Approximately 35 women attend the group, which meets at a local health clinic.

Ms. Iratxe Garcia, Chair of the FEMME Committee of the European Parliament speaks to CBM about the opportunities and challenges in progressing the human rights of women and girls with disabilities.

How does the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality of the European Parliament (FEMM committee) work to include women and girls with disabilities?

©European Union 2014 - European Parliament
Ms. Iratxe Garcia
FEMM has always been in close contact with the organisations and bodies that defend both women (example the European Women's Lobby) and persons with disabilities (example the European Disability Forum). In the last legislative term we held two hearings, one about women with disabilities, and other about violence against women with disabilities (this one organised by my group, the S-D), in which experts on both issues participated as speakers. We also drafted and adopted a report about the situation of women with disabilities in the European Union.  And of course, in all our reports and opinions for other committees we always include points to highlight the needs of women and girls with disabilities.

What in your opinion are the top 3 human rights issues facing women and girls with disabilities?

The most widespread violation of women's rights in the world is violence against women, which affects all levels of society, regardless of age, education, income, social position and country of origin or residence. And unfortunately women with disabilities experience it to a greater extent, and they are often the subject of harassment, physical, psychological and sexual abuse and rape due to having a disability. Another important issue for the human rights of women and girls is in many countries women face barriers in accessing education, in some case it is even forbidden, and once again, women with disabilities are confronted with more obstacles to be granted the possibilities and means to study and even learn basic skills e.g. to read and write. Directly linked with the lack of education, the third human rights issue-facing women with disabilities is access to the labour market, due to the multiple discrimination faced because of having a disability and being a woman.

How important is it to have the voices of women and girls represented in the wider women's movement?

It is of greatest importance that women with disabilities take part in all kind of forums and organisations, women movements in particular, but others as well like new technologies, transports, environment, health, education, labour market and so on. This is the only way to assure that their voice is heard and their needs, concerns and wishes are explained and known in order to find the best way to solve or achieved them.

What steps do you think the women's rights movement can take to be inclusive of women and girls with disabilities (for example do you find any opportunities in your work)?

First of all women with disabilities must participate more in women's rights movements. I would like to encourage them to integrate in these movements for their voice to be heard and their needs and wishes met. And of course, I also encouraged them to follow professional training or even study a University career in order to facilitate their integration in the labour market and society. I think governments, and firms as well, should make a bigger effort in means and budget to help people with all kind of disabilities to undertake a professional career that allows them to be economically independent. I am a politician and thus, I would like to make a call on women with disabilities to be active in politics, joining political groups and trade unions, and submitting their candidatures to be elected as members of local councils, regional and national parliaments, and of course, of the European Parliament as well. In fact, in the period 2004-2009, one of my Spanish Socialist colleagues was a woman with a disability.

What is your wish list for the post 2015 development framework from a gender perspective?

First of all that women must be at the core of the development framework and gender mainstreaming must be a fulfilled obligation in all programmes, actions, initiatives, etc. It is of crucial importance to take specially into account the need to empower women through education, the important women's roll in eradicating hunger and poverty, the defence of women's sexual and reproductive rights the full and easy access to family planning supplies and services, and the fight against all forms of violence toward women, including female genital mutilation.

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