Globally, an estimated one billion people have a disability and 80 per cent of that number live in developing countries. People with disabilities face multiple challenges and significant levels of stigma and discrimination in schools, workplaces and accessing public services. Women remain under-represented and unheard around the world, denied rights and voice, and locked into cycles of disempowerment. As the Department for International Development’s 2015 Disability Framework noted, women and girls with disabilities therefore face double discrimination. This denial of equal access to power and a voice, contributes to an inequality of access to livelihoods, services, security and justice.
The UK’s work and spending on international development should have two primary objectives: reducing poverty and reducing inequality. It should work towards addressing inequality in power and the exercise of rights, to ensure that marginalised groups, including women and people living with disabilities, are not left behind.
I recognise the concerns of the #EqualUN campaign that women, who make up the largest group of people living with disabilities, are underrepresented in all governing bodies that make decisions that affect their lives. The committee that monitors the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities currently has only one female member out of a total membership of 18 and that this member’s term expires at the end of this year.
The government states that it seeks to help the most vulnerable and marginalised women and girls at risk of being left behind, including women with disabilities and is to host a Global Disability Summit in July 2018. This summit will provide an opportunity to make progress for women with disabilities.
I will press the government to take action on this issue at every opportunity.