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  • Disabilities

    “Working to improve our own futures”: Strengthening Networks of Women with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action

    Refugee women and girls with disabilities participate in a planning workshop with  UNHCR and partners in Bangladesh (c) WRC/Emma Pearce

    More than 60 million people have been forced to flee their homes because of violence and conflict; at least 9 million of them are likely to be persons with disabilities. The vast majority of people displaced by conflict are women, children, and youth.

    Over and over, we see that humanitarian crises result in enormous risks to women and girls in the form of rape, assault, intimate partner violence, early marriage, and all forms of exploitation.

    The risks, dangers, and challenges are worse for displaced women and girls with disabilities.

    Adolescent Girls with Disabilities in Humanitarian Settings: “I Am Not ‘Worthless’—I Am a Girl with a Lot to Share and Offer”

    Emma Pearce, Kathryn Paik and Omar J. Robles
    Girlhood Studies

    Adolescent girls with disabilities face multiple intersecting and often mutually reinforcing forms of discrimination and oppression, which are exacerbated in situations of crisis. In crisis situations, family and community structures break down, while traditional and social norms disintegrate, all of which affect adolescent girls with disabilities in unique and devastating ways. Drawing on the Women’s Refugee Commission’s work, including personal narratives collected from girls with disabilities, in this report we review how age, gender, disability and crisis influence identity and power. This report outlines principles for including girls with disabilities in adolescent girls’ programming, promoting safe access to humanitarian assistance, and mitigating the risk of violence, abuse, and exploitation.

    Read the full article in Girlhood Studies.

    Refugees with Disabilities At Highest Risk of Gender-based Violence

    Driven by stigma or the urge to protect, families tend to hide those with disabilities. Discrimination and isolation intensifiy the pervasive risk of gender-based violence. By focusing on physical and social inclusion, humanitarians can mitigate this isolation.

    Intersecting Sexual and Reproductive Health and Disability in Humanitarian Settings: Risks, Needs, and Capacities of Refugees with Disabilities in Kenya, Nepal, and Uganda

    Persons with disabilities have historically been deprived of their sexual and reproductive health (SRH) rights. Little is known, however, about the situation for women, men, and adolescents with disabilities in humanitarian settings. The Women’s Refugee Commission led a participatory research project with partners to explore the risks, needs, and barriers for refugees with disabilities to access SRH services, and the practical ways in which these challenges could be addressed.

    Findings showed that refugees with disabilities demonstrated varying degrees of awareness around SRH, especially regarding the reproductive anatomy, family planning, and sexually transmitted infections. Among barriers to accessing services, lack of respect by providers was reported as the most hurtful. Pregnant women with disabilities were often discriminated against by providers and scolded by caregivers for becoming pregnant and bearing children; marital status was a large factor that determined if a pregnancy was accepted. Risks of sexual violence prevailed across sites, especially for persons with intellectual impairments. The ability of women with disabilities to exercise their SRH rights was mixed. Refugees with disabilities showed a mixed understanding of their own rights in relationships and in the pursuit of opportunities.

    Findings speak to the need to realize the SRH rights of refugees with disabilities and build their longer-term SRH capacities.

    Read the full article in Sexuality & Disability.

    Invisible Women Must be Included: WRC at CSW59/Beijing+20

    WRC at CSW59/Beijing+20

    The 2015 Commission on the Status of Women demonstrated great strides since the Beijing Platform for Action was adopted. Here are some of the most important issues.

    When the Definition of ‘Life-Threatening’ Injury Undermines War Refugees’ Health Care

    "While Nadine's injuries keep her from being able to leave the house, adequately look after her household, or take on a job, they fall outside the narrow definition of "life-threatening" that donors have adopted." As a result, refugees with disabilities are left more vulnerable than ever. 

    A Step in the Right Direction: New Commitments to Disability Inclusion in Refugee Settings

    Last year in Lebanon, my colleague Emma met 16-year-old Zeinah*. Zeinah, who had recently arrived as a refugee from Syria, had been shot in the back while shielding her 3-month-old baby as they were fleeing the city of Homs, leaving her unable to walk and wheelchair dependent.

    Of the world's 51.2 million people displaced by conflict and persecution, an astonishing 7.7 million are persons with disabilities. While many of their disabilities are longstanding, many are new, like Zeinah's, the result of war-related violence.

    From “forgotten” to “vulnerable” to “valuable” – persons with disabilities in refugee and displacement settings

    A new report from the Women's Refugee Commission, Disability Inclusion: Translating Policy into Practice in Humanitarian Action, highlights the challenges facing the estimated 7.7 million people with disabilities who are forcibly displaced around the world due to persecution, conflict and human rights violations, as well as advances in improving accessibility and inclusion in humanitarian programs.

    Translating policy into practice in displacement settings – Positive approaches and ongoing challenges to disability inclusion in refugee programs

    “I really, really appreciate this workshop … I had no one to meet and talk to – no chance like this.” Soe Meh* was quiet and attentive, making valuable contributions while keeping a watchful eye on her baby as she was passed among many admirers.  She presented her unique perspective to the participants attending the Women’s Refugee Commission/UNHCR workshop. As a young woman and mother with disabilities, she illuminated some of the challenges, skills and capacities that 6.7 million[1] displaced persons with disabilities have in accessing and contributing to humanitarian programs. 

    From "forgotten" to "vulnerable" to "valuable" – Promoting inclusion of persons with disabilities in refugee and displacement settings

    A new report from the Women's Refugee Commission, Disability Inclusion: Translating Policy into Practice in Humanitarian Action, launched today, highlights the challenges facing the estimated 6.7 million people with disabilities who are forcibly displaced around the world due to persecution, conflict and human rights violations, as well as advances in improving accessibility and inclusion in humanitarian programs.