THE POWER OF PARTICIPATION
On 16 March 2023, on the occasion of the 67th Commission on the Status of Women, the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund) held a webinar, “Preventing and ending violence against women and girls living with disabilities - Lessons learned from grantees supported by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women”.
The webinar opened with the key findings and recommendations of the Synthesis Review of the UN Trust Fund’s special funding window on ending violence against women and girls with disabilities, presented by one of its co-authors, Elisabet Le Roux, International Development Researcher (South Africa).
Lessons learned from 22 civil society-led projects across all five regions highlighted the importance of agency and meaningful participation of women and girls living with disabilities, which in turn enables:
- Flexible adaptation and learning
- Engagement at legal and policy levels
- Prioritization of collaborations
- Shifts in mindsets to address violence against women and girls living with disabilities.
Elisabet Le Roux also explained how the UN Trust Fund Special Funding Window has helped to translate high-level political shifts into positive changes on the ground, adding that it has “contributed to the development of a more inclusive ending violence against women and girls space, one that recognizes violence against women and girls living with disabilities."
Building capacities for change
Jackline Bartenge, Programme Manager of Women Challenged to Challenge (WCC) in Kenya, highlighted how their project builds the confidence of women and girls living with disabilities to speak up and increases their knowledge on human rights. WCC also works with community members to ensure that “multiple stakeholders move together" in addressing violence against women and girls living with disabilities.
In the State of Palestine, Stars of Hope focuses on building the capacities of service providers through customized training and programmes to render referral systems and multisectoral services more inclusive. Executive Director Kefah Abu Ghoush explained: “Positive change in attitudes and willingness in decision-makers is crucial for long-term change”.
Advocating for strong legislation
In response to a gap in legislation implementation and a lack of awareness of disability rights, the project of the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW) establishes safe spaces for advocacy dialogues in Bangladesh that call for inclusive support systems and the participation of women and girls living with disabilities in decision-making. Advocacy Manager Biplabi Shrestha said: “We did start from scratch … It’s still a work in progress”.
Anibal Cabrera Echeverría, Executive Director of Coordinadora por los Derechos de la Infancia y la Adolescencia (Coordinator for the Rights of Children and Adolescents - CDIA), noted the lack of political will and necessary funds to provide inclusive, essential services to women and girls living with disabilities in Paraguay, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. He explained that CDIA continues “to advocate so that legal frameworks become a reality, so that women and girls with disabilities may live free from poverty and violence”.
Role of the UN Trust Fund
Diana Dalton, Head of the Gender and Equalities Department at the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, shared: "These lessons are so important to inform and set standards for disability inclusive violence prevention programming."
During the webinar’s open discussion, Gaudence Mushimiyimana, co-founder and Executive Director of UNABU (Rwanda), said that “the flexibility and adaptation of funding” from the UN Trust Fund had enabled them to adapt to the impacts of COVID-19 so they could respond to the needs of women and girls living with disabilities.
In her concluding remarks, Abigail Erikson, Chief of the UN Trust Fund, reiterated the UN Trust Fund’s commitment to working with civil society partners, through trusting, egalitarian and respectful partnerships, to leave no woman or girl behind. She added:
“For 27 years our mission has been to end violence against women and girls … and this will not change until we live in a world where all women and girls are safe, empowered and living free from violence.”