Building momentum: the need of including all women for real gender equality

By Alba Gonzalez, CBM

Every year on 8 March, the international community celebrates International Women’s Day, which, according to the UN, recognises women’s achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political.

Currently, women rights are being more and more recognised. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes the need for “achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls” as a key element for sustainable development. Unlike the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) highlights the need to include the rights of persons with disabilities as part of its “Leaving No One Behind” motto. Only by applying the principle of universality, meaning the need to respect human rights for all.

The European Union (EU) has been one of the biggest supporters of the inclusion of rights of persons with disabilities during the adoption of the 2030 Agenda. In addition, it is the first regional body to ratify the human rights treaty the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). In its Article 6, the CRPD recognises that “women and girls with disabilities are subject to multiple discrimination” and that “States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure the full development, advancement and empowerment of women, for the purpose of guaranteeing them to exercise and enjoyment of the human rights and fundamental freedoms”. However, and despite some efforts of the EU to promote and realize the rights of women and girls with disabilities, multiple discrimination on the basis of disability are not fully mainstreamed in EU development policies and programmes.

Barriers and discrimination towards women and girls with disabilities

Women and girls with disabilities face more barriers to access education. Lack of accessibility, together with attitudinal barriers that consider women and girls with disabilities as objects of pity instead of equal human right’s holders are two of the biggest barriers that women and girls with disabilities face. Sexual abuse and harassment is more frequently experienced among women and girls with disabilities than those without. This is especially the case for women and girls with intellectual disabilities, and the perpetrators are most frequently care givers, family members or close people from the community.

As the CRPD Committee Members highlight in the General Comment on women and girls with disabilities, the lack of recognition before the law for women and girls with disabilities makes it almost impossible for them to report these abuses. Their word is not taken seriously, and most of the time they are perceived as persons without legal capacity. Forced sterilisation is a very common practise for women and girls with disabilities, both in developing and developed countries, which is is again especially relevant for women and girls with intellectual disabilities.

Steps forward

The EU has expressed its commitment to gender equality and women empowerment. The Gender Action Plan (GAP) is one of the first steps for the EU to promote women rights in developing countries. However, the GAP fails on the principle of leaving no one behind as the rights of women and girls with disabilities are not properly reflected. Despite mentioning the need to include multiple discrimination in its introduction, there are no mentions to women with disabilities in any objective or indicator of the GAP.

Disability has not been included in mainstream gender policies and programmes; gender has not been properly addressed in disability policies and programmes.  However, the 2030 Agenda offers now the opportunity to revise our way of working and, in that sense, CBM is working in cooperation with other civil society organisations (CSOs) or platforms such as SDG Watch Europe in order to build bridges. Only by working together, will all women achieve their rights and contribute to sustainable development.

CBM is an international Christian development organisation, committed to improving the quality of life of people with disabilities in the poorest communities of the world.

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