Gender and Disability

Women and girls with disabilities are diverse and often underrepresented in development programming and decision-making. They experience complex layers of marginalisation and are subjected to discrimination on the basis of their gender, disability and other social factors. This creates barriers to health, education, employment and limits women’s and girls’ agency, as well as their opportunities for economic, social and political advancement.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) recognises that women and girls with disabilities face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination. It contains a range of Articles that require State parties to ensure equality between men and women with disabilities, and also to address the specific needs and rights of women with disabilities (Article 6). This includes protection from violence and abuse (Article 16) and access to healthcare (Article 25).

Women with disabilities are often excluded from both gender and disability-related policies and programs. Effective inclusion of women and girls with disabilities in development interventions require both targeted and mainstreaming strategies. Measures should be put in place so that they benefit on an equal basis with others, and so that differences in outcomes, due to disability, gender and other intersecting disparities, can be addressed.

Resources in this section focus mainly on how to ensure women and girls with disabilities are included in and benefiting from development programs. This includes position papers, case studies and practical guidance.

See also: Children with disabilities, Sexual and reproductive health, Humanitarian and Disaster Risk Reduction, Fragile States and Conflict affected areas.

DFAT staff can access gender equality resources and technical advice through the SURGE (Support Unit for Gender Equality) facility at:

CBM Australia (2023) Gender Equality and Disability Equity

This paper summarises key contexts related to women with disabilities, at a time when DFAT is developing strategies for both gender equality and disability equity. It draws from CBM’s submissions to the International Gender Equality Strategy development process and includes a series of case studies, and a summary of key recommendations.

UN Women (2023) Gender- and disability-inclusive budgeting: Issues and policy options

This policy brief identifies emerging trends and practices on gender- and disability-inclusive budgeting. These include, among others: collection, analysis, and use of data and statistics on intersectional discrimination; integration of gender and disability inclusion in laws, policies, systems, and institutional practice; integration of gender and disability inclusion in the planning and budgeting cycle; and; enhanced participation of women with disabilities in policy, planning, and budgeting.

World Bank (2023) Including Women and Girls with Disabilities in World Bank Operations

This resource is a toolkit that helps to inform how to design disability and gender-inclusive programs. Whilst developed primarily for World Bank staff, the information can benefit a range of international development actors from various thematic sectors (e.g., WASH, education, social protection, GBV, health, digital access and information technology, transport, DRR). The toolkit can support staff to embed disability inclusion throughout the project cycle, and uses thought-provoking questions and checklists to support inclusive action and M&E processes.

World Federation of the Deaf (2022) Barriers to Healthcare Access for Deaf Nigerian Women and Girls during Emergencies

This document seeks to address the intersection of being deaf and being a woman when facing emergency and disaster situations and requesting healthcare services. This report presents preliminary research on the experiences faced in health care by deaf women and girls in Nigeria, highlighting the most recent emergency and disaster situation, the Covid-19 pandemic. The report presents recommendations to reduce the inequities in the intersection of gender, disability, and linguistic minorities.

CBM (2019) CBM Disability & Gender Toolkit

The Disability and Gender Analysis toolkit is designed to help CBM and partners ‘walk the talk’ on disability and gender equality. It aims to assist with gender and disability analysis. It aims to help CBM staff and partners improve the quality of their approach and ways of working, and uphold our commitment to equality and non-discrimination in all that we do. This practical set of tools tool is designed to strengthen our accountability, or organisational learning and reflection, the quality of program implementation, monitoring and evaluation, and organisational performance.

Plan International (2017) Let Me Decide and Thrive

This report calls for all children with disabilities to be provided comprehensive sexuality education so they can make conscious choices about relationships and sexuality. It also calls for governments to eliminate the stigma and discrimination that prevent girls from accessing the services and information they need about sexual and reproductive health.

CBM (2016) The 3P’s for inclusion of women with disabilities The Personal, The Political, The Policy

This resource, written from the perspective of women with disabilities, provides insight into the barriers women with disabilities face as well as clear recommendations for policy-makers and program managers to strengthen inclusion of women with disabilities at the personal, political and policy level. At the personal level this means supporting efforts to develop leadership for women with disabilities. Whilst at the political level the voices of women with disabilities are beginning to be heard through initiatives such as ‘Making it Work’ and ‘Women Enabled’, more needs to be done to develop joint disability and gender advocacy alliances. Finally ensure at the policy level that mainstream, gender specific and disability specific development policies and programmes are inclusive of women, men, girls and boys with disabilities.

CBM Australia (2018) Leave No One Behind: Gender equality, disability inclusion and leadership for sustainable development

The report highlights the discrimination that exists at the intersection of gender, disability and poverty and how this affects women and girls with disabilities in accessing employment, education, and health care. The report outlines key statistics such as - In developing countries 58.6% of men with disabilities access employment opportunities compared with only 20.1% of women with disabilities. -Women and girls with disabilities are two to three times more likely to experience physical or sexual violence than women without disabilities. -In 2014, only 1.5% per cent of specific funding for women’s and girls’ rights focused on women and girls with disabilities. The report includes recommendations such as -Considering the intersectionality of disability and gender in program cycles. –Earmarking budgets for disability inclusion. –Ensuring that M&E includes women and girls with disabilities.

Plan International (2017) Let Me Decide and Thrive: Global Discrimination and Exclusion of Women and Girls with Disabilities

This policy brief outlines findings of research into the violations of the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls with disabilities around the world. It outlines key barriers that contribute to the violation of rights and good practices in inclusion that can be built on. The report demonstrates how sexual and reproductive health rights are linked to the experience of violence and lack of agency for many women with disabilities. It also includes recommendations to tackle the systematic exclusion of women and girls with disabilities to help ensure their sexual and reproductive health rights are realised.

Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2016) General Comment No 3 - Article 6: Women and girls with disabilities (Adopted 26 August 2016)

This General Comment sets out the views of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) regarding the implementation of Article 6 of the CRPD (Women and Girls with Disabilities). It is a very useful primer to assist programs to identify the common barriers which create situations of multiple and intersecting discrimination against women and girls with disabilities across many areas of life. It outlines different types of and makes recommendations to States to address these. This General Comment is of potential use to donors and implementing partners to identify and address barriers across all sectors and assist development of national and local responses, particularly to address concerns around violence, sexual and reproductive health and rights and discrimination. Note: click ‘cancel’ when asked for a password to open the document.

CBM Australia (2012) Inclusion made easy: A quick program guide to disability in development- Part B: Women with disabilities

This guide is primarily designed for use at the programming level, for organisations to address mainstreaming of disability into development programs. It provides practical guidance on how to ensure women and girls with disabilities are included in international development programs. (Note: Part A of this resource provides an overview of disability inclusive development principles).

CBM Australia (2012) Indepth: Women, double the challenges (Video)

This two minute video clip presented by Stella Young, a well known Australian disability advocate, explains the relationship between being a woman, having a disability and living in poverty. It highlights the gendered discrimination that results from this. The video could be used to introduce the specific issues that women with disabilities face, but would need to be supplemented with additional resources to support key messages. Note that the accompanying fact sheet predates the WHO and World Bank World report on disability, and therefore under-represents global statistics on disability prevalence.

Humanity & Inclusion Source: Key list resources on gender and disability

This key list presents information about gender and disability. Resources featured include key policy and rights documents, reports and country studies that highlight the situation of women with disabilities and gender-related development initiatives. This key list has a number of practical resources that programmers and implementers could use when working to address inclusion of women with disabilities. Information relating to sexual health and violence issues is also available.

Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs; United Nations Population Fund; Wellesley Centers for Women (2008) Disability rights, gender, and development: A Resource tool for action

This resource handbook was developed with women with disabilities from 42 countries, and aims to build greater understanding of the intersections of disability rights and gender in rights based approaches to development. It provides case studies, highlights good practices and tools. It also makes recommendations for implementing gender and disability sensitive laws, policy and development initiatives. This resource would assist government agencies, program officers, civil society organisations and academic institutions to develop new legislation, policies or program initiatives that advance the realisation of rights of women and girls with disabilities.

International Disability Alliance (2013) Submission to the CRPD Committee’s General Discussion on women and girls with disabilities 17 April 2013, 9th session

This submission focuses on the intersection of disability and gender, and examines specific issues that relate to women and girls with disabilities such as access to justice, sexual and reproductive health and violence. It provides an overview of the specific discrimination that women and girls with disabilities face and provides recommendations which may inform policy and programming.

This is a three-country case study from Nigeria, Bangladesh and the Philippines, that explores gender norms. The case study provides strategies for changing community and family attitudes towards women's participation.

CBM Australia’s evaluations highlighted examples of good practice in considering gender issues and contributing to changes in norms and roles. There has been an increased focus on the rehabilitation training of fathers and siblings (rather than mothers only) leading to increased involvement in care of children with disabilities and, in some cases, household work. Evaluation findings also confirmed some common challenges in the meaningful engagement of women and particularly women with disability. They also highlighted the effect of cultural norms around masculinity and its potentially negative impact on health seeking behaviour. See our full report.

As part of a series of Women with Disabilities in Leadership, Risnawati Utami was interviewed about her journey in becoming the first Indonesian woman to be nominated and accepted as a CRPD Committee Member.

As part of a series of Women with Disabilities in Leadership, Silvia Soares was interviewed about her experiences as a woman with disability in Timor-Leste and how she became a senior manager within a DPO.

As part of a series of Women with Disabilities in Leadership, Crecencia Madeira de Deus was interviewed about her journey as a Deaf woman in becoming a director of the Deaf DPO in Timor-Leste.

As part of a series of Women with Disabilities in Leadership, Waroud Al Ahmad from Lebanon was interviewed about her experiences and how she became an accountant and business owner.

As part of a series of Women with Disabilities in Leadership, Savina Nongebatu from Solomon Islands was interviewed about her journey in becoming the Deputy CEO of the Pacific Disability Forum.

CBM Australia (2018) Case Study: Ruth Javati - PNG

As part of a series of Women with Disabilities in Leadership, Ruth Javati from PNG was interviewed about her role as an advocate for women and girls with disabilities in PNG, especially in areas of economic empowerment.

This three minute video is presented by Sieng Sok Chann, a 29 year old woman from Cambodia. It highlights the discrimination many women with disabilities face, but shows how Sieng Sok Chann has challenged discrimination and stigma in her community by being an active and productive member of her community, and a role model to other women with disabilities.

CBM Australia Life at the intersection: gender and disability

This video explores life at the intersection of gender and disability for women with disabilities.

Sieng Sok Chann sits in her hand driven tricycle wheelchair outside her house with a large smile. Her young son leans against her shyly. There is a ramp leading to the doorway. In the background across the road are several more houses surrounded by trees, and a villager and small child walk are walking together along the road.

Photo: Paul Garrett/CDPO/CBM Australia, Cambodia, 2011

Sieng Sok Chann from Cambodia is a 29 year old woman with a spinal cord injury, a wheelchair-user, a mother, the leader of a women's group and a strong role model for other women with disability. Watch her tell her story in her own words here. Copyright: CDPO/CBM Australia