Go to Press Releases library
Press Releases

At High-Level Summit, WRC Executive Director Underscores Vital Importance of Including Women and Girls with Disabilities in Humanitarian Response

LONDON — The Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) Executive Director Sarah Costa today highlighted the critical importance of including refugee women and girls with disabilities in humanitarian action during the first-ever Global Disability Summit, hosted by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the International Disability Alliance (IDA).

The summit, which was also co-hosted by the Government of Kenya, convened high-level participants including government ministers, heads of donor agencies and civil society organizations, and leaders from the private sector. Planning and execution were led by persons with disabilities from the UK and global communities.

Costa was invited to participate in a spotlight panel, titled “From Promise to Practice: Increasing the Voice, Choice, and Control of People with Disabilities in Humanitarian Response,” focused on obstacles to practical implementation of legal and policy commitments on disability inclusion in humanitarian action.

She underscored WRC’s deep commitment to working in close partnership with women and youth with disabilities to ensure their equal access to services, including sexual and reproductive health services, and their participation in all elements of humanitarian response.

“WRC has seen first-hand the important contributions that national and local women-led DPOs can make and are making,” said Costa. “Whether they are members of our research team, or helping us design and conduct consultations with refugees, we are working side-by-side with women and girls with disabilities as partners in identifying gaps in protections and services for displaced people and in crafting solutions.”

She called on donors to increase funding to Disabled Persons Organizations (DPOs) that are led by women with disabilities as a means to garner more direct input and participation from populations impacted by humanitarian crises. She also urged traditional humanitarian actors to seek out technical advice and support from women-led DPOs and to provide capacity-building to these organizations on humanitarian issues.

Finally, she called on UN agencies, as well as humanitarian and development actors to recruit women with disabilities as community volunteers and staff.

Costa lauded measures such as the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Task Team’s Guidelines on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action as a “significant step” in advancing accountability for inclusion. She also called for such guidelines to be drafted with a gender-sensitive lens, acknowledging the leadership role that women with disabilities in particular can play.

“We now have a growing network of partners that are organizations of women with disabilities from conflict-affected countries—many of them are here today. The perspectives, skills, and knowledge that these women bring to the partnership have greatly enriched our work on gender equality and women’s empowerment,” Costa said.

She was joined on the panel by Gaudence Mushimiyimana, executive director of UNABU Rwanda, an organization representing women with disabilities. In addition, Mark Lowcock, the UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, offered the UN’s vision for improvements in disability inclusion across the entire system. Also speaking in the same session was Yves Daccord, director-general of the International Committee of the Red Cross.