The women came alone, or maybe with an aide, a guide or interpreter; some used a wheelchair, others crutches, but all came with a singular purpose — to learn about how to end gender-based violence against women and girls with disabilities.
The room filled to capacity thanks to the partnership between Disability and Women Development Strategies (DWDS), Pambazuko La Wanawake Magharibi (PALAWAMA) of Kenya, and SafePlace of Austin, Texas, U.S.A. The training of trainers was a project of the Empower Partnerships program, supported by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the United States Department of State and administered by MIUSA.
Each participant brought a personal story - maybe their own, maybe that of a friend or family member.
In a country where gender discrimination is prevalent, being a woman or girl with a disability is an even greater disadvantage.
In fact, women and girls with disabilities are between four and ten times more likely to be a victim of violence or abuse. Some data indicate that as many as 40% of women and girls with disabilities experience abuse in their lifetime. But advocates agree that these numbers are hard to come by because many instances of abuse are not reported.
DWDS believes that reaching one woman at a time – boosting her ability to speak up and speak out because she knows her rights, knows she has community support and knows she has advocates in her corner – can change lives.
The project aimed for 300 participants, but reached more than 350 in its first round of trainings, and the demand is growing. In the process, DWDS helped create a network of support for women and girls in difficult domestic situations and trainers from local languages have been able to reach isolated, low-literacy communities.
The ability to fund and implement a global training program at the grassroots level has resulted in increased credibility for DWDS and PALAWAMA and women and girls who participated.
“The women were given an opportunity to prove to the community that they too can speak out,” said Naomy Ruth Esiaba of DWDS. “Thereby, they were able to gain respect from other members of the community.”
In fact, as a secondary outcome, people with disabilities have been recently appointed to county-level committees and commissions, demonstrating an increased level of understanding and awareness in government and civil society as to the importance of inclusive governance.
The work of the partnership continues, creating more opportunities - rain or shine - for women and girls with disabilities to have a voice in Kenya.
The Empower Partnerships for Inclusive Communities program is administered by MIUSA and sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the United States Department of State.