International Women’s Day 2019: Disability and Unpaid Care Work Inquiry Released


In recognition of International Women’s Day and the 2019 theme, #Balanceforbetter, CBM is pleased to release an inquiry that looks at some of the care challenges faced by women with disabilities, and families of children with disabilities. It highlights learning and practical steps that CBM’s partners have taken to address these challenges.

We learned that:

  • When we undertake community consultations to design our programmes, we need to invite and make arrangements that support the meaningful participation of married women with disability.
  • We need to ensure that our home based rehabilitation and education programmes encourage participation of fathers as well as mothers so that we are not asking women to do even more with their limited time.
  • Many children with disabilities live in female-headed households, and we need to make sure that our programmes reach them. Often we design on the basis of traditional households that include a mother and father and do not take this into account.

Community members in Jharkhand meet with CBM and local partner CSS. Participants include a fathers group recently formed thanks to the advocacy efforts of local women.


Some examples of how CBM programme work is addressing gender inequality and supporting #BalanceforBetter include:

  • Helping fathers bond with their children. A CBM partner project in the Philippines has developed parent training programmes that help fathers learn about gender-equitable parenting, build their caregiving skills and enrich relationships between them and their children with disabilities. Because fathers are taking on more household and care work, mothers are now finding the time to represent their interests and participate in community advocacy and decision making.
    “The main challenges in our family is when there is an activity I have to attend and there is no one who can take care for my child since my husband is the one earning for our daily needs. While my husband had been called for the new job…we have to decide if I will attend for the [parents] convention or my husband will not go for the call of his application. My husband give the opportunity for me to attend for the convention and not on his applied work, he said if that is for me, I can re-apply for the job.” – Mother of a child with disability, Philippines.

  • Bringing men together to challenge stereotypes, and do more at home. In India, a partner project identified local men who already helped more around the house, and helped them to form village father’s groups and mentor younger men in the village. They share their experience and about the benefits of doing more at home. This helps dispel some of those stereotypes about masculinity, and more men are helping out at home as a result. 
  • Not everyone can run a shop - supporting mothers of children with disabilities differently. In Ghana, CBM’s research with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a local partner found that children with disabilities often lived in single-mother households - fathers often abandoned the household due to negative family attitudes to disability. This means that mothers are left to look after their child with a disability by themselves and often don’t have time for much else. In these cases it makes more sense to support women to access social protection rather than encourage them to take up work or start businesses that they don’t have time for.
  • Supporting women to support each other. Being a woman with disability, or mother of a child with disability, can be an extremely isolating experience due to stigma. This means that social support is critical. In both India and Ghana projects (and many others) CBM’s partners help form small village groups so that women can share their experiences and learn from each other. In some cases they also start small businesses together, help look after each other’s children so they all have time to participate and earn a living.
    “…I thought I was the only one with this problem but when I saw my colleague women with similar problems, I realised that I wasn’t the only one. [And how does that help you knowing the other women?] I now know that there are other women like me with the same situation, so I have other mothers that I can share my problems with each time I go for meetings.” – Mother of a child with a disability, Ghana.

Whether a woman caring for a person with disability, or a woman with disability herself, women’s disproportionate share of unpaid care work limits their ability to participate in and benefit from development. If the Sustainable Development Goals really are to leave no one behind, and uphold the voice and agency of women with disabilities, then it is critical that unpaid care work is recognised, reduced and redistributed.

Click here to read the full inquiry.