United Nations' International Day of Disabled Persons

Yesterday, December 3rd, was the United Nations' International Day of Disabled Persons. The UN designated this day to promote understanding of disability issues and to mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to focus on the benefits for all from the integration of persons with disabilities in all aspects of political, social, economic and cultural life.

I had written some of this information recently for another purpose (and added in some information that our intern Michelle Morales has recently gathered) and wanted to share this with you as a small celebration of the work of disabled women's groups worldwide.

The Global Fund for Women has provided over $1.6 million in grants to 114 grassroots organizations in 61 countries led by women with disabilities that are working on disability rights issues. This is a testament to the work of women with disabilities worldwide who face multiple layers of discrimination as they work both to ensure that the human rights of the disabled are protected and that women's rights are ensured within the disability community. Last year, the Global Fund for Women awarded more than $274,000 to 28 grassroots disabled women's organizations in 21 countries.

The accomplishments of these amazing groups include, but are certainly not limited too:
The National Union of Women with Disabilities Of Uganda used a 2005 grant of $7,000 from the Global Fund for Women to create a video documentary on the risks for HIV infection and its impact on women with disabilities. The group notes that women with disabilities are often seen as non-sexual human beings, which leaves them in marginalized and invisible positions in HIV and sexual/reproductive health policy agendas. The video documentary they created helped raise women with disabilities' awareness on how they may be at risk for HIV infection and methods of prevention; it also built sensitivity among HIV-service providers and HIV policy advocates to the needs of women with disabilities.

Meliya Asanova, the founder of Hayot, the first organization in Samarkand, Uzbekistan established by and for women with disabilities believes that the "the moral health of a society is determined by its attitude towards people with disabilities." Hayot received their first grant from the Global Fund in their 2nd year of operation, when their annual operating budget was just $8,000. Today, Hayot's annual budget exceeds $200,000 and includes a diverse group of funders. Hayot is a key resource center in the region, providing legal literacy classes, counseling, campaigns for accessible buildings, advocacy on behalf of disabled women's rights, and offering assistance to new organizations as they establish themselves.

Women's groups are also using Global Fund grants to conduct legislative advocacy and change the laws that so often either fail to protect the rights of the disabled or entrench discrimination against them. Groups like the Shumuu Association for Human Rights and Care for the Disabled in Cairo, the Zambia National Association of Disabled Women, and the Georgian Disabled Women's International Association have used Global Fund grants to pursue public awareness campaigns, advocated for legal reform, and helped ensure the passage of legislation that protects the human rights of women and the disabled. In Kenya, the Kenya Association for Empowerment of Disabled People monitors the implementation of the People with Disabilities Act and other parliamentary bills to ensure there are no clauses that discriminate against women with disabilities and works to ensure that critical information such as on HIV/AIDS prevention can be made available in formats accessible to all people.

In Gaza, the Bureij Association for the Rehabilitation of the Handicapped, the only organization of its kind is led by and works with women and girls with disabilities in the Bureij Refugee camp. In the midst of a war zone, the Association has carried out valuable research on the prevalance of disabilities in Gaza and on the major issues of concern to disabled women and girls. The Association's week-long health education and disabilities seminars have engaged over 100 women and 80 young women with disabilities and their mothers, have participated in the Association's first aid, general education, homeopathic medicine, and sign language workshops.

Finally, just a few stats on what disabled women's groups are up against:

  • Women with disabilities are two to three times more likely to suffer physical and sexual abuse than women without disabilities.
  • 98 percent of children with disabilities do not attend schools, and disabled girls are less likely to attend school than disabled boys.
  • 20 million women a year become disabled as a consequence of unsafe conditions surrounding pregnancy and childbirth.



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