Message by RI Global President, Haidi Zhang at COSP11


      It is a pleasure to convey my best wishes to all of you who have gathered for the side event with a topic of Rural Women with Disabilities.

      The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 300 million women and girls worldwide have some kind of disability. Research also shows that women and girls with disabilities face double discrimination compared to men, since the prejudice is from not only disability but also gender. They lack access to education, health care, and employment and are at high risks of gender-based violence and neglect. If we look into the women and girls with disabilities in rural areas, we would see that they are faced with even worse conditions.

      Since 1922, Rehabilitation International (RI) has demonstrated its commitment to rehabilitation and concerns for the welfare for millions of persons with disabilities, including women with disabilities. I still remember my inaugural address in 2016 at the last day of the 23rd RI World Congress in Edinburgh. I mentioned women with disabilities as one of the priority groups that RI should pay more attention to, which is also reflected in RI Strategic Plan 2017-2021. 

      One of the important goals of 2030 Agenda is to strengthen efforts of the international community to empower persons with disabilities and to provide them with equal access to participation and opportunities in the process of achieving the SDGs.

      Today, we should be the strongest advocates for realizing the vision set out by the CRPD. We call on the international community to eradicate all forms of discrimination and biases, to promote equal sharing and inclusive development for women with disabilities. With all stakeholders working together, in a collaborative partnership, this goal can be achieved. 

      Here I have some suggestions to achieve this goal: first, I call for strengthened collaboration among the United Nations, Governments, DPOs, women’s organizations, the private sector and persons with disabilities themselves, so as to draw more attention to women with disabilities worldwide. Second, when we provide services to persons with disabilities, women with disabilities should be the priority target group in health care, education, rehabilitation and employment. Third, empowerment of women with disabilities is critical to achieve their equal access to all fields. 

      Please let me extend my high appreciation to the Secretariat who organized this wonderful event. On behalf of RI, I truly appreciate everyone attending the side event. As we embark on the great journey for the betterment of all human beings, let us be reminded that realizing our goals requires the inclusion of women with disabilities.