Women and girls with disabilities experience heightened and complex marginalisation that makes achieving disability equity increasingly difficult.

Women and girls often face a broad spectrum of human rights abuses, however for the significant number of women and girls with disabilities, this is compounded by the additional stigma and discrimination encountered by people with disabilities.

Globally, an estimated 19 per cent of women have a disability, compared to 12 per cent of men. This figure is greater in lower-income countries, where 22 per cent of women have a disability, compared to 14 per cent in higher income countries. As a result, we see women with disabilities in majority world countries experiencing lower rates of employment, restricted access to healthcare and education, and increased social isolation and vulnerability to shocks than men with disabilities and women without disabilities. They also experience discrimination specific to the intersection of their gender and disability. For example, women and girls with cognitive or psychosocial disabilities are at a heightened risk of abuse and less likely to have access to support or justice. For women and girls with disabilities in additional marginalised communities, such as ethnic minorities, refugees, indigenous persons, and LGBTQI persons, these inequalities and vulnerabilities are exacerbated.

The protection of women and girls with disabilities is necessary to fulfil obligations listed in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and the Sustainable Development Goals. For this, an intersectional approach to gender equality and disability equity ensures that women with disabilities can thrive and overcome barriers. This means making gender equality policies and programs disability-sensitive, and disability equity policies and programs gender-sensitive.

Breaking down institutional barriers to include women and girls with disabilities and their lived experiences in both women’s and disability rights movements is fundamental to ensure policies, programs, advocacy, and resources reflect the experiences of all women and end discrimination against women and girls with disabilities.

ADDC’s recommendations on how the development sector can better responds to the needs of women and girls with disabilities can be found in our submission to the International Gender Equality Strategy.

Further reading

For more information on the intersection between disability and gender, see CBM Australia’s resources on gender, and to see how organisations are implementing a disability lens into their work on gender, take a look at IWDA’s Disability Inclusion and Strategy Action Plan.