SDG 5: Gender equality and Disability Inclusive Development in the SDGs

Women in Burudi taking part in the schistosomiasis survey, part of a neglected tropical diseases programme.

Women taking part in the schistosomiasis survey, part of a Neglected Tropical Diseases programme in Burundi.

In celebration of International Women’s Day 2016 this article gives an overview of some of the key targets of Goal 5 of the SDGs and highlights how it is relevant to women and girls with disabilities.


As highlighted in previous blogs by CBM’s UN representative Elizabeth Lockwood, along with the 11 explicit references disability in the SDGs, persons with disabilities are implicitly included throughout the SDGs. For example, Goal 4 states ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’.  If we imagine forward to the year 2030,  and the successful implementation of the SDGs, our world should have become more equal for all people regardless of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status. 

In order for that to happen, we have to first navigate through the complex web of translating the SDGs into effective outcomes for all people. International development has an important role to play in this respect. Development efforts must, at the very least, bring a focus to the multi-faceted discrimination that people face. It is already widely acknowledged that women, men, girls and boys with disabilities face discrimination in education, employment and basic services and it also acknowledged that women with disabilities face multiple discrimination on the basis of having a disability and being a woman or girl. Yet more often that not, women and girls with disabilities are not visible within development programmes focused on disability inclusion or gender equality. The SDGs can provide an opportunity to change this.

What does SDG 5 mean for women and girls with disabilities

The SDGs and particularly Goal 5, which focuses on Gender Equality and the empowerment of women and girls, has a key role in creating opportunities for women and girls with disabilities to fulfill their full potential. Goal 5 includes a number targets and the following bullet points highlight how these targets are also equally relevant to women and girls with disabilities. 

  • End discrimination against all women and girls everywhere : This is particularly relevant to women and girls with disabilities. In comparison to men with disabilities and women without disabilities, women and girls with disabilities have lower education completion rates, are less likely to be employed and are more at risk of living in poverty [1]. National policies and frameworks that are developed as a result of the SDGs must include women and girls with disabilities if discrimination against all women and girls is to be achieved.
  • Eliminate all forms of violence and harmful practices against all women : Women with disabilities are at heightened risk of violence, exploitation and abuse compared to women without disabilities [2]. Measures taken to implement this target must be inclusive of women with disabilities.
  • Recognize and value unpaid care work : This is an important point for both women and men with disabilities who require personal assistance/care assistance and needs to be adequately resourced by governments. Women who make up the majority of the caring/personal assistance workforce providing this support should be paid fairly for their work.
  • Reform legislative and policy blocks that prevent women having equal rights to economic resources : Linked with the above statement about women with disabilities at risk of living in poverty, some of the factors that contribute to this include; laws and policies that prevent women with disabilities having control over their resources. For example, outdated legal capacity laws and prejudicial attitudes which deny women with disabilities the opportunities to have their own bank accounts or prevents them from getting access to micro-credit for livelihood opportunities. Measures taken to reform laws to enable equal rights to resources must also include women with disabilities.
  • Enhance the use of enabling technology : Technology and assistive devices are key enablers for women and men with disabilities. Access to assistive aids and devices can make a difference in the lives of women and men with disabilities, technology also has a key role to play in creating inclusion
  • Ensure participation and leadership in decision-making : Women with disabilities typically have not been in leadership positions within, the government and public sector, the private sector, disability or gender movements and
  • Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights : Women and girls with disabilities face negative attitudes by society related to the intersection of disability and gender and these impact on the enjoyment of sexual and reproductive health and rights, and the right to a found a family.

How disability inclusive development and gender equality can work together for inclusion

For an inclusive and equitable world, effective development outcomes will need to include strategies where disability inclusive development and gender equality work together. To do this it means as a first step reaching over the walls that separate people based on different identities and viewing different perspectives through different lenses. For example, applying a gender lens to disability inclusive development work can increase awareness about how development programmes and projects can impact women, men, girls and boys with disabilities differently. It can also mean that steps can be taken to ensure programmes and projects can accommodate these differences and it can also identify where specific supports/focus might be required. For example, women with disabilities may require a women’s only group. Applying a disability inclusive lens to gender equality approaches, can increase awareness about the specific requirements of women and men, girls and boys with disabilities so that they are not excluded from programmes and projects in key areas such as violence prevention, health, economic empowerment and leadership.

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