Skip to main content
Global Disability Summit logo.

News

‘Women and Girls with Disabilities Must Have a Voice’

Play audio version

Global Disability Summit 2022 Speakers Commit to Inclusion, Access, and Participation

March 29, 2022

At the Global Disability Summit’s “Spotlight on Gender” session, Elizabeth Kanjiwa, a youth leader with visual impairments from Family Planning Association Malawi (FPAM) and International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), explained why she is enthusiastic about her work as a peer educator: “My passion is to save many girls from unplanned pregnancy that can lead them to drop out of school and forced marriage and no control over their lives,” Kanjiwa said.

The second Global Disability Summit was held on February 16 and 17, 2022. Hosted by the International Disability Alliance (IDA) and the Norwegian and Ghanaian governments, the summit was held virtually to ensure inclusive participation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first Global Disability Summit (GDS18) was held in 2018 and was hosted by the Kenyan government, the former UK Department for International Development (DFID), and the International Disability Alliance (IDA).

In this year’s “Spotlight on Gender” session, Kanjiwa said that Malawian girls in Mtande Village, TA Chimutu in Lilongwe do not have knowledge about safe sex and do not know where to access contraceptive services. Girls with disabilities find it difficult to access sexual and reproductive health and rights (srhr) services due to long travel distances to health centers. Girls with disabilities, especially those who are Deaf or hard of hearing or blind or have low vision, also encounter difficulties communicating with health workers and accessing radio and television public service announcements on srhr. Additionally, Kanjiwa mentioned how some health workers are not hospitable.

“The first time I went to a clinic in 2012, I was sent back, just because I did not come with my guardian. I felt ignored, but now they are friendlier than before. Many of them have received training from FPAM on youth-friendly and disability-inclusive services,”  Kanjiwa said.

Elizabeth Kanjiwa, a young Malawian woman with vision impairments, has short black hair. She is seated inside a room in front of a white wall. She is communicating with Braille to present her "Global Disability Summit - Spotlight on Gender" speech. She wearing a pink, blue, white, and purple blouse with flower designs.
Elizabeth Kanjiwa speaking at the 2022 Global Disability Summit’s Spotlight on Gender session

According to Dr. Bärbel Kofler, another “Spotlight on Gender” speaker and Parliamentary State Secretary to Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, women and girls with disabilities are often at a double disadvantage because they are female and have a disability. “In low-income countries, three-quarters of all the people with disabilities are female. In these countries, almost one in every four women, 22 percent, is living with one or more than one disability. The consequences are disastrous,” Kofler said.

Dr. Kofler stated that women and girls with disabilities are between three to ten times more likely to experience gender-based violence than those without disabilities. Women and girls with disabilities must have a voice,” she said. “Only then will they be able to fully participate in social, economic, and political life.”

According to the United Nations Population Fund, girls and women with disabilities are not only more likely to experience gender-based violence but are less likely to access sexual and reproductive health and rights services and information like menstrual hygiene, family planning, and comprehensive sex education.

Dr. Natalia Kanem, a third speaker and executive director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said, “UNFPA will work in partnership … to ensure women and girls with disabilities are fully seen and counted. Let us recognize their rights, respect their choices, acknowledge their beauty and brilliance and support their every hope and aspiration.” 

Honorable Nyeleti Brooke Mondlane, Mozambique Minister of Gender, Children, and Social Action and a fourth speaker at the summit session, also reaffirmed Mozambique’s commitment to materializing goals, including the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which focus on leaving no one, including persons with disabilities, behind.

The next Global Disability Summit will occur in 2025. The German and Jordanian governments will be its hosts. In her speech, Kanjiwa recommended that the voices of people with disabilities be included in various high-profile meetings like the Global Disability Summit, where decisions are made. so that there is “nothing about us without us.”

Esther Suubi is a fellow with the Disability Justice Project and a peer educator with Triumph Mental Health Support. @2022 TRIUMPH Uganda. All rights reserved.

News From the Global Frontlines of Disability Justice

A step stool underneath a bed in a health center in Rwanda.

Toward Equitable Health Care

Rwandans with disabilities face significant barriers to accessing health care. For those with short stature, this includes hospital beds and reception windows that are too high. “Sometimes we are served after others or choose to stay home,” says one advocate for more inclusive services and infrastructure.

Read more about Toward Equitable Health Care

Sri Sukarni sits in a motorbike sidecar, looking at the camera.

‘I Never Imagined I Could Do This’

Dissatisfied by the way local news portrays people with disabilities, DJP Fellow Sri Sukarni is determined to use her new video skills to share issues important to her community. At the top of her agenda is the lack of accessible public service buildings. “This is what I want to convey to the media, to the government,” she says.

Read more about ‘I Never Imagined I Could Do This’

Benedicta Oyedayo Oyewole sits in a chair, looking at the camera.

‘You Can’t Legislate Attitudes’

When DJP Fellow Benedicta Oyèdayọ̀ Oyèwọlé was a child, a pastor laid hands on her to “cast out the demons” and blamed her disability on witches. Today, Oyèwọlé is working as an advocate for Nigerians with disabilities to end discrimination: “It’s people’s attitudes that need to be transformed. You can’t legislate attitudes.” 

Read more about ‘You Can’t Legislate Attitudes’

Kinanty Andini uses a video camera.

‘Videos Are Like Art to Me’

When she was four years old, DJP Fellow Kinanty Andini drew all over the walls in her mother’s house. Now she’s using her creativity to make films that fight against mental health stigmas. “I want to show the society who we really are,” says Andini. “I want people to know that we are not what the stigma says about us.”

Read more about ‘Videos Are Like Art to Me’

Olúwáṣeun Oníyídé Olútòni stands outside, looking at the camera.

When Identities Collide

Olúwáṣeun Oníyídé Olútòni says that living at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities has shaped the way the world sees her – and how she sees the world: “My disability, gender identity, and queerness are not separate parts of me. They are parts of what makes me whole.”

Read more about When Identities Collide

Cyprian Niyibigira stands, looking at the camera.

Shut Out

Accessible job opportunities are few and far between for persons with short stature in Rwanda, says Vice President of the Rwanda Union of Little People Manasseh Nzanira. A woman with short stature who has remained unemployed despite having a bachelor’s degree for over four years shares her story.

Read more about Shut Out