Youth and the Global Advancement of Disabled Women’s Rights

I have been given the incredible opportunity to attend the 58th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW58),held at the United Nations from March 10 until March 21. This year’s theme is “Challenges and Achievements in the Implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for Women and Girls.”

Of all the events that have occurred at CSW58 thus far, one of my favorites focused on the need to advance the human rights of disabled women, hosted by Human Rights Watch and the New Zealand Mission to the United Nations. During this session, I learned about the violence and discrimination faced by women with disabilities in Northern Uganda. Many women interviewed by Human Rights Watch cited being treated so horribly, they often felt “as if [they] weren’t human.” Furthermore, over a third of the 64 girls and women living with at least one disability interviewed by the Human Rights Watch “reported that they had experienced some form of sexual and gender-based violence, including rape.” In fact, women with disabilities are extremely vulnerable to gender-based violence due to their lack of mobility and support structures, as well as the “social perceptions that they are weak, stupid, or asexual.”

After attending this event, I asked many of the speakers, “What can youth do to get involved in ending discrimination and violence against all women, and in particular those with disabilities?”  I learned that youth can educate themselves on the issues through reading books and checking out reports like this one from Human Rights Watch.

In addition, many youth have begun screening documentaries showcasing the harsh realities that women with disabilities face. Other youth groups at many high schools have fundraised to send wheelchairs to disabled women in certain parts of the country.

Overall, I learned that youth can get involved with the resources they have right now, whether it is fundraising for the disabled to get access to basic health care needs, or even going to a library and using a computer to educate yourself on how governments globally are failing to meet the needs of the disabled, in particular women.