14.09.2016 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.

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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.

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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.