"WILD has succeeded in raising strong and dynamic women who are assertive enough to engage their community leaders to promote the issues of women and girls with disabilities in their countries. I am such an example; my level of confidence has tripled since WILD."
- Ekaete Umoh, WILD Alumna from Nigeria
To date more than 220 women with disabilities from over 83 countries have participated in MIUSA's International WILD program.
“We should not wait for what people will do for us, but we should try to create impact and make our contributions felt in society.”
– WILD-Uganda participant
A neighbor once told to my mom that there was no space for people with disabilities after graduation, that I should stay home to learn sewing, embroidering, or doing housework.
Handiwork and household jobs were popular for girls with disabilities in the 1990s, and I recognized many people with disabilities in general stopped their education because of discrimination. I tried to convince my parents to give me an opportunity to study further and expressed my expectation to live independently. It took me long time to get an approval from my parents.
Many factors contribute to the increased risk that people with disabilities experience for contracting HIV/AIDS, and to the fact that individuals with disabilities who also have HIV/AIDS often lack appropriate information and access to treatment. In turn, without appropriate teatment, HIV/AIDS can result in secondary disabilities. HIV/AIDS programmers should seek out training and resources to ensure their activities are disability-inclusive.
Despite the pouring rain, women from all over Homa County in Western Kenya gathered in a classroom at the local college. The women came alone, or maybe with an aide, a guide or interpreter; some had 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.
“Ensuring people with disabilities have access to health care in your communities largely depends on you.” This was Christiana Yaghr’s message, communicated in sign language, to 27 women with diverse disabilities in the small northern Ghanaian town of Wa. Representing regions throughout the country, many of the participants had traveled for hours to this workshop, the first of its kind, to learn not only about HIV/AIDS prevention but also about how to ensure that women with disabilities have access to services and information.
Achieving equality for people with disabilities depends on an empowered civil society that actively demands rights, transparency, and accountability from the government. For Disabled Peoples Organizations (DPOs) to be most effective in their advocacy, they must include the diversity of the disability community, and tap into the power of disabled women leaders.
Women and girls with disabilities face double discrimination based on disability and gender. They 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?
Youth with disabilities are amongst the most marginalized and poorest of all the world’s youth. They commonly face more discrimination and severe social, economic, and civic disparities as compared with those without disabilities, especially in developing countries.
Yet, youth programs seldom address issues of youth with disabilities, much less include them into activities.
People with disabilities in developing countries often represent the poorest of the poor, yet they are typically overlooked in the development agenda. Poverty reduction strategies must include people with disabilities to achieve development goals.
Economic development programs such as microfinance have revolutionized efforts to fight poverty by providing financial services to people previously conceived as dependent on charity. Such financial services have empowered and enabled people, particularly women, to take control of their lives and contribute to their societies.
Building inclusive, vibrant democracies depends on the active engagement of all citizens in public life. People with disabilities represent approximately 15% of the population, a large constituency base in every country, yet decision-makers and policy-makers in government have historically been unresponsive to their needs.
Through involvement in political activity, law and policy reform, disabled people and their organizations can influence improvements in the areas of health, rehabilitation, education, employment, and access to goods and services.
In the remote mountainous Gulmi District of Nepal, Ms. Ganga Rayamajhi of Nepal, a double amputee, serves as chairwoman for Hope Disability Centre.
Following her participation in MIUSA Women’s Institute on Leadership and Disability (WILD), her organization hosted a campaign to advocate for disability rights and ending violence against women and people with disabilities in Nepal. During the campaign, Ganga participated in interviews on the radio and television to influence policy makers toward justice and social change.
How do short term international exchanges advance equal rights for people with disabilities? It starts with an individual taking action.
For Lizzie Kiama, a disabled activist from Kenya, an afternoon spent on a YMCA basketball court in Oregon, USA, gave rise to a new idea. “This was when my dream for Women & Wheels was born,” says Kiama who has a physical disability. “I had the opportunity to take part in Wheelchair Rugby, and I knew I had to play the sport again.”