Women’s Health, Wellness and Violence Prevention

African women talking in a circle
Women and girls with disabilities face double discrimination based on disability and gender.

Women and girls with disabilities are more likely to experience violence, abuse, and poor health than men with disabilities. They are less likely to have opportunities for education and employment, or access to critical services such as disaster aid or HIV&AIDS prevention programs.

If women and girls with disabilities are so vulnerable to human rights violations, why, then, are so many of them being excluded from the life-saving and life-enhancing development programs that exist in their communities?

Within the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), three articles relate to health, wellness and safety concerns of women with disabilities and can be utilized to make changes.

  • Article 6 on Women with Disabilities recognizes that women and girls with disabilities are subject to multiple discrimination, and requires states to take measure that will ensure their full and equal enjoyment of rights.
  • Article 16 on Freedom from Exploitation, Violence, and Abuse requires states to take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social, and educational to protect persons with disabilities from all forms of exploitation, violence and abuse, including their gender-based aspects.
  • Article 25 on Health states that people with disabilities have the right to the best possible health and access to health services including family planning and reproductive health.

7 Key Issues to Know about Women with Disabilities

  • Women are more likely to become disabled than men as result of violence, armed conflict, aging and gender-biased cultural practices that limit their access to food, shelter, health care and a safe working environment.
  • Women with disabilities are less likely to marry and inherit property. Those who do marry are more likely to be abandoned with children and live in poverty.
  • Maternal health care is often denied to disabled women, either because it is not considered right for them to bear children, or because the available services do not consider their particular needs.
  • Common barriers for women with disabilities in asking for help are lack of sensitization among staff, NGOs, health clinics and government officials leading to degrading comments verbal abuse and not prioritized equally as non-disabled people.
  • Approximately 1/3 of girls and women with disabilities experience sexual and gender based violence globally.
  • Women with disabilities are at greater risk of exposure to violence as a result of living in institutions, residences and hospitals and have less credibility when reporting violence occurring in institutions.
  • Women with disabilities are vulnerable to being trapped in abusive relationships because of their dependence on their partners for financial and social reasons.

5 Starting Strategies for Inclusive Health, Wellness and Safety Programs and Services

  1. Facilitate collaboration and coordination between stakeholders including: criminal justice, health, welfare, social service systems with organizations and groups of women with disabilities, so that in any given community a disabled woman who is a victim of violence will be directed towards an integrated network of services that can offer both solutions and hope, no matter where she makes her first point of contact.
  2. Train service providers and staff in public service (i.e. police, schools, health services, social services and other community networks) on the issues of women with disabilities – ensure these trainings are run with women with disabilities.
  3. Educate parents and families on rights of women and girls with disabilities and importance of access to information and services.
  4. Educate women with disabilities about their rights to violence prevention, safety and wellness and about the available programs and services.
  5. Work with disabled women and their representative organizations or networks to understand how to better reach and include women with disabilities in violence prevention and health programs.

In spite of barriers, women with disabilities are making significant contributions as leaders and activists in communities throughout the world – they are directing organizations, running businesses, heading families, assuming political offices and working tirelessly to advocate for their rights.

We encourage you to explore some of the key external resources on gender and women’s issues provided in Related Links and Documents. The resources are provided in their original format. MIUSA strives to ensure external documents are accessible to the greatest extent possible. As the field of gender equality and women’s empowerment is developing rapidly, we also recommend doing web research for new resources.

Be sure to utilize MIUSA’s resource, Making Inclusive Development a Reality: Ten Essential Steps, which has disability inclusion tips relevant across all development sectors. This can be found in the Related Resources.