Gender and disability

Women with disabilities have been described as being doubly marginalised on account of their disability and their gender. They may be more vulnerable to poverty and social exclusion, and often have limited social, political and economic opportunities and lack of access to basic services. Women with disabilities may also be at greater risk of sexual and physical violence and abuse. Girls with disabilities often experience discrimination, for example in education and family life.

However, to address these issues it is necessary to understand the social roles of and between women and men both with and without disabilities. The exclusion experienced by women and girls with disabilities is not simply a women’s issue or a women with disabilities issue, but a social issue that requires active participation of women, men, girls and boys. This can be described as a gender and development, rather than women in development, approach.

Both mainstream policies and programmes and initiatives aimed specifically at people with disabilities should have a cross-cutting gender component to ensure the inclusion and empowerment of women and girls with disabilities. This is supported by Article 6 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

This Key list includes introductory resources on gender and disability, as well as experiences and country studies which describe the situation of women with disabilities and gender-related initiatives. Practical resources for those working with gender and disability, key policy and rights documents, and information relating to sexual health and violence issues are also highlighted. We welcome your suggestions: please send comments or suggested additions to

Selected resources

Introductory resources

Discrimination against women with disabilities

BELEZA, Maria Leonor
October 2003

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This publication highlights the difficulties that women with disabilities often encounter and includes practical information on how to improve their situation. The report analyses the underlying factors of double discrimination based on gender and disability and proposes concrete actions to achieve equality. This report would be of interest to all those concerned with the fight against discrimination throughout Europe

Education for all : a gender and disability perspective

ROUSSO, Harilyn

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This paper explores the challenges involved with educating women and girls with disabilities. It begins by explaining the shortcomings of data collection and information gathering, briefly explores the legislative and policy issues, and concludes with a set of policy recommendations for inclusive education. This was a background paper prepared for the Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2003/4 'Gender and education for all: the leap to equality'

Gender and disability : a survey of InterAction member agencies. Findings and recommendations on inclusion of women and men with disabilities in international development programs

et al

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This is the report of a research project on the efforts of US non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to reach disabled people. It found that there was a lack of data on the participation of disabled people especially disabled women and girls, and that these groups were also under-represented among the participants of the NGOs' programmes

Gender and disability : a way forward to overcoming multiple discrimination


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This advocacy briefing paper presents key information about the inclusion of disability in gender policies and programs. It highlights key facts and issues such as women and girls with disabilities facing multiple discrimination, gaps in political and program responses and legal policy and frameworks. It outlines practical steps can be taken by development actors at different levels and suggests ways to measure progress


Advocacy briefing paper

Gender and landmines : from concept to practice


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"This report studies the significance of gender in the impact and the effectiveness of mine action. It aims at giving the reader an overview, together with concrete examples, on how gender can be mainstreamed in mine action. This publication was developed to guide staff within the mine action sector, including policy makers, programmers, donors and implementing organisations"

Gender and priority setting in mine action

December 2012

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"This policy brief focuses on the gender dimension of small ‘p’ priority-setting for land release. Preferences identified through consultation with stakeholders from different gender, age and socio-economic groups should lead to the allocation of resources to, and concentration of activities on, tasks where impact will be the greatest"
GICHD policy brief 5

Gender and women's mental health


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This article provides facts about gender disparities and mental health, gender specific risk factors and gender bias. Links are provided to related resources

Gender guidelines for mine action programmes

February 2005

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This report provides information to assist United Nations mine action policy makers and field personnel incorporate gender perspectives in all relevant mine action initiatives and operations . It outlines how to address the needs of individuals affected by landmines by providing gender mainstreaming and assessing objectives for mine risk education, victim assistance and advocacy

Human rights for women and children with disabilities


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This report highlights various human rights abuses against women and children on the following topics: sexual and gender-based violence targeted at women and girls with disabilities; discrimination in health and reproductive rights, including forced sterilization and HIV and disability; barriers to education for children with disabilities; violence against children with disabilities in schools; and abuses in institutions. This resource is useful to anyone interested in human rights of women and children with disabilities

Loud, proud and passionate!


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"This video documents MIUSA's Women's Institute on Leadership and Disability. Interviews with participants highlight the vision, determination, challenges and recommendations of women with disabilities who are grassroots leaders in over 25 countries. MIUSA's unique model of international leadership training is illustrated as women with mobility, visual and hearing disabilities are shown in unique training workshops and team-building activities, from project development to an outdoor ropes challenge course"
Note: free viewing online of the shorter version, $19.95 for 22mins DVD available in English, Spanish, Arabic, Russian or French

Right Now : women with disabilities build peace post-conflict

ORTOLEVA, Stephanie
April 2011

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The paper examines a gender mainstreaming and disability inclusive approach to ensure the inclusion of women with disabilities in post-conflict peace-building. This paper is useful to people interested in women with disabilities and post-conflict peace building
Barbara Faye Waxman Fiduccia Papers on Women and Girls with Disabilities

Strong proud sisters : girls and young women with disabilities

ROUSSO, Harilyn

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This report presents disabled girls and their needs and resilience, looking at a range of issues such as definitions and demographics, access to health care, substance abuse, exercise and sports, depression, self-esteem, eating disorders and body image, disability identity, role models and media images, social and sexual development, violence, educational equity, and employment
Barbara Waxman Fiduccia Papers on Women and Girls with Disabilities

Women and girls with disabilities : defining the Issues|An overview


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This report addresses a wide range of issues -including physician assisted suicide, access to health care, reproductive rights and health, family life, education and employment, violence against disabled women and girls, and disabled women's leadership. The report also considers how applying a "disability lens" and reflecting the values and vision of disability feminism can help bring the voices of disabled women and girls to the policy arena and to feminist research, policy and advocacy agendas

Women enabled website


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This website presents information about Women Enabled (WE), a non-governmental organization working to advance the human rights of women and girls worldwide, especially women and girls with disabilities. Links are provided to a comprehensive list of women enabled issues, in addition to related news and events, media and publications and advocacy advice to take action. This website is useful for anyone interested in the advancement of human rights for women and girls

Women with disabilities : lessons of reinforcing the gender perspective in international norms and standards

January 2003

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This document discusses the history of getting women with disability issues into the UN development agenda. It provides guidelines for lobbying national governments and analysis of successful campaigns. This work also discusses the need for improvements in data collection and fact finding tips. This resource would be useful for anyone with an interest in women's rights and disability and development

Policies and rights

Gendering the draft comprehensive and integral international convention on the protection and promotion of the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities : legal background paper

ARNADE, Sigrid,
January 2006

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This legal background paper asserts that the United Nations Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities should include a separate article on the equality of women with disabilities. This paper outlines the stigma, discrimination and human rights abuses that especially harm disabled women. Other issues of focus include: sexual and psychological abuse, including forced sterilisation; habilitation and rehabilitation; participation in public life; and employment. This resource would be useful for anyone with an interest in gender equality, women's rights and international law

The rights of women with disabilities in Africa : does the protocol on the rights of women in Africa offer any hope?

KAMGA, Serges Alain Djoyou
February 2011

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"The aim of this paper is to analyze how women with disabilities can fully benefit from the legal framework afforded to African women by the African Women’s Protocol. The paper argues that the challenges faced by women with disabilities are huge and therefore should not be confined to a single provision, especially if disabled women’s rights are to be addressed efficiently. The Paper presents the situation of women with disabilities in Africa, discusses the implications of having a stand-alone provision on the rights of women with disabilities, and makes use of the guidelines for States’ reporting under the African Women’s Protocol with special attention to reporting on 'Special Protection of Women with Disabilities' (article 23) to demonstrate the added value of having many and more explicit provisions on the rights of women with disabilities"
Barbara Faye Waxman Fiduccia Papers on Women and Girls with Disabilities

Women with disabilities and the human right to health : a policy paper

May 2010

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This policy paper examines women with disabilities' right to health in Australia. Given the context of three key human rights conventions, the paper highlights the ways in which women and girls with disabilities in Australia are denied their right to health and provides an overview of policy initiatives required to address the structural, socioeconomic and cultural barriers. The paper concludes with strategy suggestions for the Australian Government. This document would be useful for people interested in women with disabilities' right to health in Australia

Experiences and country studies

Access to HIV/AIDS and sexual violence protection services among women and men with hearing, visual and physical impairments in Battambang and Kampong Cham provinces of Cambodia

August 2010

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"This article presents the findings of a study on access to HIV prevention and sexual violence protection services among persons with disabilities in Cambodia, based on a gender and cross-impairment analysis. The results show obvious discrepancies between women and men of different impairments in regards to their level of HIV knowledge and risks to sexual violence, in particular among women with disabilities. Furthermore, local services providers revealed their lack of awareness on disability issues and capacity in providing accessible services to them. Ways forward in addressing the rights of women and men with disabilities, as well as gaps in services delivery will have to be addressed in concerted manners at political, societal and community levels"

Assessing the situation of women with disabilities in Australia : a human rights approach

Rosny Park, Tasmania,
Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA)
July 2011

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This paper uses a human rights framework to document the range of data, research and information needed in order to give a comprehensive assessment of the situation of women with disabilities in Australia. The paper provides "an overview of the intersection of gender and disability, as well as a brief background to the human rights imperative. Using key articles from the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the paper then prescribes the key quantitative and qualitative data and research required under each article, and links this to Australia’s international human rights obligations and domestic policy context"

Disability rights and advocacy training for women with disabilities in the Arab region

Rehabilitation International (RI),
The Supreme Council of Family Affairs
February 2009

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"This paper lays out the international human rights and women's rights framework, then focuses specifically on disability and women's rights legislation in the Arab region."
It contains eight sessions:
The International Human Rights and Women’s Rights Framework
Overview of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, standard rules, disability and women’s rights legislation in the Arab region
Challenges faced by women with disabilities in the Arab Region
Advocating for the rights of women with disabilities
Non-discrimination and the right against violence for women: international and regional context
The rights to education and employment for women: international and regional context
Partnerships and strategies for a regional action plan
Working groups: Making your action plan

Disabled women : an excluded agenda of Indian feminism

GHAI, Anita

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This article places disabled women within the women’s movement as well as the disability movement in India. The author highlights the reasons for disabled women’s absence from the agenda of Indian feminism, and concludes by reflecting on the possibilities of inclusion within Indian feminist thought
Hypatia, Vol 17, No 3

Equity to women with disabilities in India

RAO, Indumathi

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Prepared for India's National Commission for Women, this strategy paper explores the situation of women with disabilities in India. It looks at the discrimination that women with disabilities experience in all areas of life, including access to education, training, employment and health.

Gender and disability in the Arab region : the challenges in the new millennium

NAGATA, Kozue Kay

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"Many women are discriminated against because they are women. Having a disability compounds this gender-based prejudice. Women with disabilities in many regions of the world including Arab countries suffer from this double discrimination. The study upon which this article is based analyzes the status of Arab women in general, gender relations in the Middle East, and the situation of Arab women with disabilities, based on available disability statistics from a few selected countries and the author's observations during her 13-year living experience in Baghdad, Amman, and Beirut"
Asia Pacific Disability Rehabilitation Journal, Vol 14, No 1

Gender mainstreaming and disability : sensitization in civic and voter education for USAID/Namibia

SOMACH, Susan D,
LEBEAU, Debie,
MINDES, Jerome
May 2004

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"This report examines the USAID-funded Civic and Voter Education Program's effectiveness in gender and disability mainstreaming in Namibia...It examines the relative strengths and weaknesses of the Electoral Support Consortium (ESC or Consortium), which was established to encourage voters to participate in the elections and to help voters make informed voting decisions. Although the focus of this consultancy was specifically to determine to what extent the ESC has been integrating gender mainstreaming and addressing disability and socially marginalized populations, this report, out of necessity, gives an overview of the ESC and the Namibian social environment within which the ESC operates"

Political participation of women with disabilities in Cambodia : research report 2010


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"This report examines the interests of women with disabilities, as well as the barriers to their participation. It also provides recommendations for the promotion of their electoral and political participation, while highlighting opportunities and strategies for intervention and engagement by relevant stakeholders"

The forgotten tribe : people with disabilities in Zimbabwe

January 2007

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This report discusses prevalence and causes of disability in Zimbabwe, and explores issues such as poverty, gender, health and HIV, education, employment and sports. It is based on a 2006 survey by Progressio Zimbabwe. The report concludes with a chapter on lessons learned and policy recommendations. This resource provides useful information for people interested in the situation and life of people with disabilities in Zimbabwe

Sexual and reproductive health

Awareness of reproductive rights, HIV prevention and sexual exploitation among women with disabilities

NANGENDO, Florence
October 2002

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This research report identifies issues of awareness of reproductive rights and HIV prevention among women with disabilities. The report presents the respondents’ discussions about the rights that are relevant to them and also if they revealed how they are either protected or abused. The report’s recommends increased sensitisation, to parents, communities and other service providers to continue supporting disabled women in satisfying their sexual and reproductive needs as well as protecting them from HIV/AIDS

Male, female or disabled : barriers to expression of sexuality


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"This research is based in social model of disability and emancipatory research paradigm, and it explores barriers to the expression of sexuality in a small group of disabled persons in Italy. It has been carried out exclusively through Emails, Newsgroups and Internet, and it also explores the role of internet-based information technologies in participatory and emancipatory research"

Reproductive health justice for women with disabilities

et al
April 2011

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"This paper highlights the added discrimination that women with disabilities often face in the context of their disparate access to health care, especially in the areas of reproductive health services and sexual health education, and offers recommendations for a twenty-first century response to the vast health care gaps that impact this population"
Barbara Faye Waxman Fiduccia Papers on Women and Girls with Disabilities

Sex, disability and motherhood : access to sexuality for disabled mothers

O’TOOLE, Corbett Joan

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"This article examines the barriers to sexuality facing mothers with disabilities. These barriers include: stereotypes that disabled mothers are not sexual, lack of resources for essential aspects of parenting, and difficulty in creating time for personal and private adult activities. Recommendations are presented based on the experiences of disabled mothers"
Disability Studies Quarterly, Volume 22, No. 4

Sterilization of women and girls with disabilities : a briefing paper

et al
November 2011

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The paper gives a background to the issue of forced sterilisation, outlines various international human rights standards that prohibit forced sterilisation, and offers several recommendations for improving laws, policies, and professional guidelines governing sterilisation practices. It is useful for anyone interested in the sterilization of women and girls with disabilities

The sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls with disabilities

ORTOLEVA, Stephanie
July 2013

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"This Briefing Paper examines the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls with disabilities in the context of the future development agenda Beyond 2014 and Post 2015"
Issues Paper
ICPD Human Rights Conference on Sexual and Reproductive Health The Hague, Netherlands
7-11 July 2013

Toolkits, manuals and guides

A health handbook for women with disabilities

DAVID, Darlena
February 2007

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This book deals with practical advice on health care for women with disabilities. It has been developed in partnership with health care professionals and disabled women in over 42 countries. It covers the key issues of disability in the community; accessible health care; mental health; sexual health; family planning; and child birth. The book is written in a practical and accessible style, suitable for anyone with an interest in disability, social development and women's health issues. In particular, the book offers a valuable insight into 'real-life' personal experiences of disabled women

Disability rights, gender, and development : a resource tool for action


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This manual contains resource materials on approaches to promote the human rights of persons with disabilities, especially women and children, in inclusive people-centered development. It is divided into three modules: Locating the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities within the Human Rights Framework; Tools for Promoting the Rights of Women and Children with Disabilities; and An Inclusive Approach to Gender, Disability, and Development. Each module includes case studies, good practices, analysis and actions to guide human rights practice and the development agenda. This manual is useful for organisations, government agencies and academic institutions who are interested in promoting the human rights of people with disabilities, especially women and children

Gender and disability toolbox


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"The overall aim of this Gender and Disability Toolbox is to help DPOD member organisations and their Southern partners to mainstream the gender dimension." The toolbox is divided into the following three sections: Section I Relationship between Gender and Disability; Section II Gender-Sensitive Project Preparation; Section III Organisational Development from a Gender Perspective. The sections contain detailed introductory information, case studies, project planning tools, annotated gender-sensitivity guides and lists of related references. This resource would be useful to people interested in gender and disability issues

Inclusion made easy : part B|Disability inclusion : women


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There is a need for organisations working in the field of women and gender to better understand how disability is experienced. The information in this practical resource is relevant for both women-specific activities along with gender programs. It provides practical about how to include women with disabilities in development programmes


"As if we weren’t human" : discrimination and violence against women with disabilities in northern Uganda

BARRIGA, Shantha Rau KWON, Soo-Ryun
August 2010

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After 20 years of displacement and war in northern Uganda, this research report presents information about the situation of women who acquired their disabilities due to the war or who already had disabilities before the war. The report presents interviews from women with disabilities, their family members, international agencies and NGOs, and analyses their responses given the context that Uganda is a signatory to international treaties, such as the CRPD. The report concludes by making recommendations to the government of Uganda

An assessment of the factors of risk and vulnerability of women and men with disabilities to sexual and gender-based violence

HADI, Melinda,
MUTONI, Sophia
February 2012

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This report presents the findings of a situational assessment that explored the risk factors and vulnerabilities of women and men with disabilities to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and highlights the complexity of addressing SGBV, sexuality, and the stigma and discrimination that is part of the daily reality for persons with disabilities. Recommendations are provided for various stakeholder groups
SD/ RS 05

Contextual factors around the sexual abuse of people with disability in East Africa

May 2015

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This literature review on the issue of sexual violence against people in East Africa aims to identify applied research. It contains a synthesis of the knowledge contained in the best selected research, reading notes and an annotated bibliography. The synthesis provides an objective summary of the of the state of the knowledge concerning the sexual abuse of people with disabilities in East Africa


Note: report is available in both word and pdf formats from links above

Disabled women and domestic violence : making the links|An interim report for the women’ s aid federation of England

HAGUE, Gill,
THIARA, Ravi K.,
MAGOWAN, Pauline
October 2007

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This interim report presents a research project which explores disabled women’s experiences of domestic violence and investigates existing service provision available to them. It is "based on two national surveys, one of domestic violence organisations and one of disabled people’s organisations. Specialist facilities and accessible services were in short supply in both sectors. One recurrent issue was lack of secure on-going funding, which held many organisations back from developing their services as fully and inclusively they might wish. The provision of appropriate training, and improved liaison between the two sectors, would help to provide a better service for disabled women experiencing abuse"

Forgotten sisters : a report on violence against women with disabilities|An overview of its nature, scope, causes and consequences

ORTOLEVA, Stephanie,
August 2012

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This report focuses upon prevalence and pervasiveness of violence against women and girls with disabilities. It "reviews available information on the forms, causes and consequences of violence against women when both gender and disability collide to exacerbate that violence; examines the impact of the multiple and intersecting dimensions of women’s lives and; their impact on violence against women with disabilities. The Report outlines the international and regional legal framework, highlighting relevant provisions and interpretations. Finally, the Report examines the extent to which States have met their due diligence obligations (setting forth a few country-specific case studies) highlights some best practices, discusses significant gaps in the research and makes recommendations for future action"
Paper series no 104-2012

On the margins : violence against women with disabilities

NAIDU, Ereshnee
et al
April 2005

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This report explores why disabled women are more susceptible to violence then non-disabled women. It further examines how service providers respond to their needs, and the barriers associated with accessing proper assistance. The authors also investigate the role of government in providing health services that provide equal and adequate support. This work tackles issues of social isolation, stigma, and human rights

Triple jeopardy : gender-based violence and human rights violations experienced by women with disabilities in Cambodia

WALJI, Fareen
January 2013

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This paper presents the findings of a "participatory research project, developed collaboratively between Australian and Cambodian partners, (that) investigated prevalence and experiences of gender-based violence of women with disabilities in comparison to women without disabilities; assessed the extent to which existing policies and programs include or address women with disabilities; and explored how women with disabilities are supported or denied access to existing programs"
AusAID Research Working Paper 1

Violence against disabled women

March 1999

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This report summarizes available data and research on the prevalence of violence in the lives of women and girls with disabilities -including domestic abuse and battering, sexual abuse and rape, and forms of violence masked as socially accepted treatment

Violence against women with disabilities

March 2011

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"The aim of this paper is to educate people about the violence experienced by women with disabilities, to make recommendations about what can be done by a variety of stakeholders to end violence against women with disabilities, to motivate agencies dealing with violence against women to include prevention of violence against women with disabilities in their work, and to empower women with disabilities to protect themselves against violence"
Barbara Faye Waxman Fiduccia Papers on Women and Girls with Disabilities

Violence and abuse against women with disabilities in Malawi

November 2006

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This is a case study of violence and sexual abuse towards women with disabilities in Malawi. It is based on in-depth interviews and focus group discussions. This work examines the childhood and adult experiences of these women, and asserts that discrimination, stigma and vulnerability is worse for adult women.It claims that improvements to access and education will lead to empowerment, thus improving the overall quality of life that women with disabilities can enjoy. This work would be useful for anyone with an interest in human/ women's rights and disability