Women with disabilities have two big problems – their disability and their gender

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Women with disabilities have two big problems – their disability and their gender.

by Tiziana Oliva


Women with disability experience gender-based and sexual violence. They are twice as likely to have these problems as other women.(Socialstarclub.com under a Creative Commons Licence)

Ashura Michael is a Young Voices campaigner from Kenya. She has a hearing disability. She is a new lawyer and she feels strongly about helping women who have experienced violence and abuse.

Recently she helped a young Kenyan girl with a hearing disability. The girl was raped by one of her teachers and became pregnant. She stopped going to her lessons and the school locked her in her room. She is an orphan and she had no help from a family. Ashura heard her story and with the help of local officials, the girl moved from her school to the home of guardians. There is still a legal case against the teacher.

Many women with disabilities who experience violence do not have help from someone like Ashura. There are many things that stop them from getting help and justice.

Violence is often not reported. This is for many reasons including low confidence, not enough information about rights, and dependence on carers, who sometimes are the abusers.

Police stations and doctors are often difficult to get to. Police and other professionals often don’t know how to help women with disabilities who report abuse. Often things are worse because there is no help and people do not believe their stories. A mother in Kenya had a daughter of 13, who was raped. She was told she could not get help because the girl is deaf and disabled and cannot tell her story in court.

International Women’s Day is a time every year to celebrate progress on equality for women. International Women’s Day was first celebrated in 1975 by the UN during International Women’s Year. But it also reminds us of how much more we need to do.

Women with disabilities often have two problems – their disability and their gender. For them equality is a long way away.

Only 25 per cent of women with disabilities have jobs. Only one per cent of women with disabilities can read and write. Mortality rates among girls with disabilities are much higher than for boys, according to the UN Development Programme. These statistics are terrible. They show how women have very few opportunities.

Women are more likely than men to become disabled. This is because of poor healthcare, violence, and poor working conditions. In low-and middle-income countries maybe three-quarters of all disabled people are women. Disability means more risk of being sicker, poorer, less educated and more socially isolated than men with disabilities or other women.

Violence against women is a big international problem. Women with disabilities are twice as likely to experience domestic violence and other forms of sexual violence as other women. They are likely to experience abuse for a longer time.

We know there is not enough progress in the Millennium Development Goals on gender equality for women. Disability problems weren’t in the Millennium Development Goals. But organizations and individuals are campaigning for them.

Risna is a gender and disability activist in Indonesia. She was interviewed by the development organization CBM before International Women’s Day.

Risna believes that women with disabilities should act for equality and be role models. This will make a better world and give “social justice”.

In 2014 it is time for us all to listen more to women like Risna and what they are saying.

Tiziana Oliva is International Director at Leonard Cheshire Disability.

As this article has been simplified, the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed. For the original, please see: http://newint.org/blog/2014/03/07/women-disabilities-double-oppression/