Enabling women with disability to become leaders for change

The unique voice of women with disabilities needs to be heard, but for many reasons it is not. Women with disabilities (WWD) experience multiple disadvantages due to the interplay between gender, disability and poverty. They experience higher rates of poverty, ill health, unemployment and violence than their non-disabled peers. Recent research in Cambodia demonstrates that women with disabilities often for many reasons do not disclose violence against them or seek support needed. Being underrepresented in both women’s rights organizations, and disability rights organizations, women with disabilities have had little attention paid to their situation and thus experience multiple forms of oppression. In addition to disability-specific biases, women with disabilities face gender stereotypes when they are seen as primarily responsible for domestic matters and child care, and incapable of participating in political and social life. In particular, they are often excluded from social participation and economic opportunities, which can place a burden on them and their families and drive them into a cycle of poverty and discrimination.

The project aims to create the platform to represent, advocate for the rights, and empower women and girls with disabilities in Cambodia, with a specific focus on leadership skills development, promotion of public participation, fighting against gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health rights of women/girls with disabilities, and economic empowerment through skills development on business initiatives.

The project started in 2016 by People’s Action for Inclusive Development (PAfID) formerly known as Light for the World – Cambodia. Starting from a group of 22 women with disability registered at the beginning of the programme from nearly all provinces in Cambodia, we now have 75 women with disability representatives. A series of capacity building sessions has been provided such as self-empowerment, leadership and advocacy, disability inclusion, facilitation and negotiation skills, mental health, counselling, sexual reproductive health, budgeting and project management. These sessions were accompanied by the promotion of small grants with which the women could resource their action plans developed during the programme. This enabled them to fund small initiatives in their local areas.

Highlights include:

  • 75 women with disabilities registered and trained.
  • Other 2250 women with disabilities were impacted from the program through snowball affect approach.
  • Series of 10 essential skills training have been delivered covering a wide cross section of topics.
  • Some women members have been supported to develop small proposals to implement by themselves to reach to other women with disability in their community.15 local projects have been supported.
  • A flat monitoring and evaluation structure was used where the women monitored each others’ projects.

This programme is crucial to raising the voice of women with disability. Building skills and capacity amongst change champions has a far-reaching affect when taken back to their communities. Often at provincial level, it is the first time rural women with disability are being reached. The programme has  a deep pyscho-social support role for the women also which builds a supportive environment and confidence.

Throughout our work, we have learnt that actors in the field of development need to go through organizational and systematic processes of change within their programs to move towards sustainable (disability) inclusion. We support these processes at community, organizational and governmental level.

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