On International Women’s Day, IDA, as a partner with the Inclusive Futures Consortium hosted a webinar that sought to center voices of women with disabilities. The webinar had speakers offering their learnings, based on their expertise and lived experiences, on how they were working to address systemic discrimination directed towards women and girls with disabilities.

On International Women's Day 2022, the Swiss Disability and Development Consortium (SDDC) launched the Photovoice Study on Women with Disabilities in Nepal. This participatory study and photo exhibit ‘My lens, my reality’ examined the situation of women with disabilities in Nepal, with a focus on the barriers and enablers to their inclusion. Nepal is a priority country of Swiss development cooperation, which is the main focus of the SDDC.

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An estimated 1 in 5 women have a disability. Women and girls with disabilities face systemic barriers to participation and inclusion and represent a disproportionate percentage of the world’s poor as a consequence of this discrimination. This is especially true of women with disabilities who face multiple and intersectional discrimination. 

Responding to the intersectionalities and diversity of needs and perspectives of women with disabilities calls for new forms of collaboration, coordination and sharing of expertise beyond traditional spheres. Bridges need to be constructed to break down siloed agendas. In this regard, law and programmatic reform need to recognize and respond to the intersectionalities of gender and disability to effectively mainstream the rights and perspectives of women with disabilities into the landscape of the broader gender empowerment programmes and increase leadership within the disability rights movement.

Notable progress has been made over the past decades towards gender equality and the empowerment of women, including through gender mainstreaming. Significant advances have also been made in the promotion of the rights and perspectives of persons with disabilities. However, significant gaps remain in terms of addressing the situation of women and girls with disabilities.

IDA and its Members have recognized the need to increase advocacy and investments related to the priorities of women and girls with disabilities. IDA’s efforts to increase the visibility and leadership of women and girls with disabilities cuts across all its work. However, in order to effectively equalize opportunities for women and girls with disabilities to benefit from development efforts, IDA and its members initiated a dedicated initiative.  

The Flagship
IDA formulated a flagship initiative focused on women and girls with disabilities with the support from DFID and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, in recognition of this need for increased focus on the priorities and leadership of women and girls with disabilities.

The Flagship’s mandate will respond to and promote Article 6 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which outlines the need to ensure that women and girls with disabilities enjoy the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including measures to ensure the full development, advancement and empowerment.

This flagship focuses on two main objectives:

  1. Inclusion within the UN Framework: ensuring that the priorities of women and girls with disabilities are taken into consideration in UN frameworks, particularly focusing on advocacy within UN Women to increase the inclusion of women and girls with disabilities within their programming and policies; and
  2. Empowerment and Leadership: developing and strengthening women and girls’ leadership both within the women empowerment movement and within the disability movement.

Flagship Task Team
A Task Team was established to guide and oversee the Women with Disabilities Flagship and is composed of representatives from the following IDA members: World Blind Union (WBU), Arab Organisation of Persons with Disabilities (AOPD), World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), Asean Disability Form (AsDF), European Disability Forum (EDF), African Disability Forum (ADF), Pacific Disability Forum (PDF)

The Women with Disabilities flagship had its first face to face meeting from 7-9 December 2018 in Cairo, Egypt. The objective of the meeting was to identify key opportunities and define IDA’s strategy towards the inclusion of issues of women and girls with disabilities in the work of the UN and other development partners; and to promote the leadership of women and girls with disabilities. The Task Team also decided to have virtual monthly meetings to maintain the momentum of their work.

The Task Team has identified 4 key engagement opportunities:

  • Commission on the Status of Women (CSW),
  • Conference of States Parties to the CRPD,
  • Women Deliver Conference, and
  • High-Level Political Forum

The Task Team has identified several priorities to propel the work of the Flagship:

  • Identify existing measures and mechanisms to promote disability-inclusive development that is gender-responsive, and includes women and girls with disabilities
  • Track and strengthen IDA Member’s networks and programming related to women and girls with disabilities.
  • Identify entry points, opportunities, and capacity-building resources to strengthen the synergies with UN Women and other UN bodies.
  • Identify strategies and develop recommendations for the UN and civil society, to amplify the voices of women with disabilities and address persistent barriers to their empowerment

IDA’s Expertise and Engagement:

  • The leadership of women with disabilities at the CEDAW Committee: IDA successfully supported the campaign of Ana Pelaez (EDF), through direct advocacy with the Member States, supporting side events, publishing position papers, and events, in her election to the CEDAW Committee. She is the first person with a disability to hold the seat of Committee Member to CEDAW.
  • The leadership of women with disabilities at the CRPD Committee: IDA has been advocating for gender parity in the CRPD Committee. The election of 6 women in June 2018 has led to a composition of 12 men and 6 women on the CRPD Committee for the period of 2019 to 2020, thereby contributing to the restoration of gender balance. 
  • Engagement of women with disabilities at the CSW: The 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62) took place from 12-23 March 2018 at the UN Headquarters in New York. IDA Members both attended CSW and spoke during side-events. Through intense advocacy and partnership with the Member States and the Women’s Rights Caucus (NGO coordination group), the Agreed Conclusions included two stand-alone paragraphs on the urgent need for states to promote and protect the rights of women and girls with disabilities in rural areas.
  • Leadership and advocacy of women with disabilities at the global level: The Women’s Flagship has supportive efforts for women and girls with disabilities to be included in CSO engagement for Beijing +25, which critically examines the progress of the Beijing Platform for Action, including providing recommendations for future improvement and implementation.
  • Leadership and advocacy of women with disabilities at the regional levelFor example, the 3rd Regional Conference of the Arab Forum of Women with Disabilities (AFOWD) was organised by IDA member AOPD in Cairo on 28-29 April. The Arab Declaration on the Rights of Women and Girls with Disabilities was adopted with a call for its ratification by the League of Arab States to ensure the enjoyment of all rights by women and girls with disabilities as enshrined in the CRPD and all the international conventions on human rights related to women. It also called to ensure their participation in society on an equal basis with others as set out in the CRPD, the Agenda 2030, Arab Summit Resolution (29/3/2017) on the adoption of the Cairo Declaration on Arab Women – Strategic Plan of Action: Women’s Agenda in the Region Arabic 2030.

IDA’s Partnership with UN Women
IDA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with UN Women in May 2018 to support UN Women’s capacity to mainstream issues of women and girls with disabilities in their work.  IDA contributed and supported the development of the UN Women Strategic Plan for the inclusion of women and girls with disabilities which was adopted on 3 December 2018.

A disability inclusion training was held in Cairo with the staff of the UN Women Regional Office of Arab States (ROAS). The Capacity Training objectives were two-fold: to provide the Regional Office of Arab States’ personnel with tools on disability inclusivity for their operations and programme work to increase collective and individual capacity; and to provide an interactive knowledge exchange between UN Women regional and country offices and external partners, particularly women leaders with disabilities.

Between July and November 2019, a series of 3 webinars were hosted by UN Women in partnership with IDA. The 3 webinars built upon the UN Women’s Strategy on the empowerment of women and girls with disabilities, specifically addressing the following topics: challenges and solutions to inclusion; multi-pronged approach to disability-inclusion and data and evidence; and inclusive management. The webinars were aimed at UN Women staff, but open to anyone with interest in these subjects. 

Related updates on the IDA website: