Women and Disability

Women and girls with disabilities face triple discrimination; by being female, having a disability and being amongst the poorest of the poor. They are often subjected to discrimination in accessing education, employment, family life and health care and are often at a greater risk of violence injury, abuse, neglect, maltreatment or exploitation.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) recognises that women and girls with disabilities face multiple forms of discrimination. It contains a range of Articles which require States party to ensure equality between men and women with disabilities and also to address the specific needs and rights of women with disabilities (Article 6). This includes protection from violence and abuse (Article 16) and access to healthcare (Article 25).

Women with disabilities have traditionally remained invisible in both disability and gender policies. Effective inclusion of women and girls with disabilities in development interventions require both specific strategies and mainstreaming strategies.

Resources in this section focus mainly on how to support the inclusion of women and girls with disabilities and include position papers, case studies and practical guidance on inclusion.

See also: Children with disabilities, Sexual and reproductive health, Humanitarian and Disaster Risk Reduction, Fragile States and Conflict affected areas.

CBM Australia (2018) Leave No One Behind: Gender equality, disability inclusion and leadership for sustainable development PDF 1.99MB

The report highlights the discrimination that exists at the intersection of gender, disability and poverty and how this affects women and girls with disabilities in accessing employment, education, and health care. The report outlines key statistics such as - In developing countries 58.6% of men with disabilities access employment opportunities compared with only 20.1% of women with disabilities. -Women and girls with disabilities are two to three times more likely to experience physical or sexual violence than women without disabilities. -In 2014, only 1.5% per cent of specific funding for women’s and girls’ rights focused on women and girls with disabilities. The report includes recommendations such as -Considering the intersectionality of disability and gender in program cycles. –Earmarking budgets for disability inclusion. –Ensuring that M&E includes women and girls with disabilities.

Plan International (2017) Let Me Decide and Thrive: Global Discrimination and Exclusion of Women and Girls with Disabilities Website with link to PDF

This policy brief outlines findings of research into the violations of the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls with disabilities around the world. It outlines key barriers that contribute to the violation of rights and good practices in inclusion that can be built on. The report demonstrates how sexual and reproductive health rights are linked to the experience of violence and lack of agency for many women with disabilities. It also includes recommendations to tackle the systematic exclusion of women and girls with disabilities to help ensure their sexual and reproductive health rights are realised.

Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2016) General Comment No 3 - Article 6: Women and girls with disabilities (Adopted 26 August 2016) Word document (207 KB)

This General Comment sets out the views of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) regarding the implementation of Article 6 of the CRPD (Women and Girls with Disabilities). It is a very useful primer to assist programs to identify the common barriers which create situations of multiple and intersecting discrimination against women and girls with disabilities across many areas of life. It outlines different types of and makes recommendations to States to address these. This General Comment is of potential use to donors and implementing partners to identify and address barriers across all sectors and assist development of national and local responses, particularly to address concerns around violence, sexual and reproductive health and rights and discrimination. Note: click ‘cancel’ when asked for a password to open the document.

CBM Australia (2012) Indepth: Women, double the challenges (Video) (video)

This two minute video clip presented by Stella Young, a well known Australian disability advocate, explains the relationship between being a woman, having a disability and living in poverty. It highlights the gendered discrimination that results from this. The video could be used to introduce the specific issues that women with disabilities face, but would need to be supplemented with additional resources to support key messages. Note that the accompanying fact sheet predates the WHO and World Bank World report on disability, and therefore under-represents global statistics on disability prevalence.

CBM Australia (2012) Inclusion made easy: A quick program guide to disability in development- Part B: Women with disabilities (PDF 467 KB, Word 146 KB)

This guide is primarily designed for use at the programming level, for organisations to address mainstreaming of disability into development programs. It provides practical guidance on how to ensure women and girls with disabilities are included in international development programs. (Note: Part A of this resource provides an overview of disability inclusive development principles).

Humanity & Inclusion Source: Key list resources on gender and disability (updated regularly)

This key list presents information about gender and disability. Resources featured include key policy and rights documents, reports and country studies that highlight the situation of women with disabilities and gender-related development initiatives. This key list has a number of practical resources that programmers and implementers could use when working to address inclusion of women with disabilities. Information relating to sexual health and violence issues is also available.

Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs; United Nations Population Fund; Wellesley Centers for Women (2008) Disability rights, gender, and development: A Resource tool for action (PDF 1404 KB)

This resource handbook was developed with women with disabilities from 42 countries, and aims to build greater understanding of the intersections of disability rights and gender in rights based approaches to development. It provides case studies, highlights good practices and tools. It also makes recommendations for implementing gender and disability sensitive laws, policy and development initiatives. This resource would assist government agencies, program officers, civil society organisations and academic institutions to develop new legislation, policies or program initiatives that advance the realisation of rights of women and girls with disabilities.

International Disability Alliance (2013) Submission to the CRPD Committee’s General Discussion on women and girls with disabilities 17 April 2013, 9th session (Word 124 KB)

This submission focuses on the intersection of disability and gender, and examines specific issues that relate to women and girls with disabilities such as access to justice, sexual and reproductive health and violence. It provides an overview of the specific discrimination that women and girls with disabilities face and provides recommendations which may inform policy and programming.

Stubbs D and Tawake S (2009) Pacific sisters with disabilities: At the intersection of discrimination website with link to PDF (PDF 981 KB)

This report outlines the findings of a study commissioned by United Nations Development Programme Pacific Centre. It identifies particular issues and challenges faced by women and girls with disabilities in the Pacific. It analyses the social and economic factors that impact on achievement of their human rights and evaluates policies, laws and programs in the Pacific for women and girls with disabilities. It provides recommendations for governments, DPOs, women’s organisations, NGOs, private sector, donors and development partners.

CBM Australia (2013) End the Cycle: Sieng Sok Chann’s story (video)

This three minute video is presented by Sieng Sok Chann, a 29 year old woman from Cambodia. It highlights the discrimination many women with disabilities face, but shows how Sieng Sok Chann has challenged discrimination and stigma in her community by being an active and productive member of her community, and a role model to other women with disabilities.

Washington Group on Disability Statistics technical presentation

Jennifer H. Madans Ph.D., Associate Director for Science, National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and Mitchell Loeb,
Health Scientist, NCHS from the secretariat of the Washington Group on Disability Statistics delivered a technical session
on how to use the Washington Group questions in monitoring data systems and how to disaggregate data by disability
followed by a question and answer session at the University of Melbourne on Thursday, 30 April 2015. The presentation
was organised by the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Presentation from the Washington Group on Disability Statistics
Sieng Sok Chann sits in her hand driven tricycle wheelchair outside her house with a large smile. Her young son leans against her shyly. There is a ramp leading to the doorway. In the background across the road are several more houses surrounded by trees, and a villager and small child walk are walking together along the road.

Photo: Paul Garrett/CDPO/CBM Australia, Cambodia, 2011

Sieng Sok Chann from Cambodia is a 29 year old woman with a spinal cord injury, a wheelchair-user, a mother, the leader of a women's group and a strong role model for other women with disability. Watch her tell her story in her own words here. Copyright: CDPO/CBM Australia