RI Global Position Paper: Disability in “Progress of the World’s Women 2015-2016 Report”

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This week, UN Women released a report entitled Progress of the World’s Women 2015-2016: Transforming Economies, Realizing Rights. Read the full report here.

This report includes several mentions of persons with disabilities. The following summary highlights these mentions:

“Gender discrimination compounds other forms of disadvantage—on the basis of socioeconomic status, geographic location, race, caste and ethnicity, sexuality or disability—to limit women’s and girls’ opportunities and life chances.” [Page 12]

“Currently, only 27 per cent of the world’s population enjoys full access to social protection, whereas 73 per cent are covered partially or not at all. Women are often overrepresented among those who lack access to social protection. The definition of national social protection floors, including basic income security for children, working-age adults, older people and people with disabilities as well as the extension of basic social services to all, therefore holds significant promise for women. The introduction of universal social pensions in countries such as the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Lesotho and Mauritius, for example, has helped close gender gaps and provide women with basic income security in old age.” [Page 15]

“In the January 2015 Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the Human Rights Council, for example, Spain came under criticism from its peers for the harsh impact of its austerity measures, especially on women, migrants, people with disabilities and children.48 The concept of indirect discrimination serves to emphasize how seemingly ‘neutral’ policies or practices can act to put some groups at a disadvantage due to structural and historical inequalities.” [Page 37]

“Stigma is frequently invoked where gender intersects with other characteristics including disability and sexuality as well as poverty, race, caste, ethnicity and immigrant status. For example, immigrant, ethnic minority women working in domestic service are often stigmatized as being backward, dirty or carrying diseases, thereby justifying their subordinate position vis-à-vis their employers. Stigmatization has far-reaching consequences for the realization of economic and social rights: it renders the needs of certain groups and individuals invisible, pushes them to the margins of society and excludes them from access to resources and services, as Chapter 3 shows.” [Page 50]

“Between 2010 and 2012, in a historic case on equal pay initiated by the Australian Services Union, the Government’s employment ombudsman, Fair Work Australia (FWA), ruled in favour of 150,000 workers in the social and community services sector. FWA decided that gender had been an important factor in undervaluing the sector’s largely feminized workforce, which provides services to vulnerable children, sick and older people, disabled people, refugees and survivors of violence.164 As a result of the case, it was agreed that workers would receive pay increases of between 23 and 45 per cent over eight years, for which the Federal Government committed around $1.8 billion.165 Unions hope the case will help establish an equal pay standard in other industries.” [Page 99]

“Those requiring care such as children, the elderly, sick people or those with disabilities are often least able to afford to pay for the true costs of quality care services. Women, as the majority of care providers, end up subsidizing these costs through their underpaid labour.” [Page 100]

“Social protection and social services are sometimes delivered in ways that stereotype or stigmatize women—especially those who are poor, disabled, indigenous or from an ethnic minority—or burden them with additional unpaid labour.” [Page 131]

“The risk of stigmatization is greatest where gender inequalities intersect with other axes of disadvantage such as class, ethnicity, disability, location or race. In Ecuador’s conditional cash transfer programme, Bono de Desarrollo Humano, for example, some indigenous women did not collect their benefits because the private guards of the financial institution mistreated them while they were queuing.” [Page 140]

“In 2004, South Africa’s EPWP set a quota for women at 60 per cent—later reduced to 40 per cent—as well as for youth (20 per cent) and people with disabilities (2 per cent).” [Page 144]

“Make care credits available to all caregivers, regardless of their sex, to compensate for contributions ‘lost’ during periods out of the labour force to look after dependants (whether children or elderly, sick or disabled family members).” [Page 156]

“Care for dependent people—children, people with disabilities, the frail elderly, the chronically ill and others who need assistance in daily living—is intimately connected with health and other social services. This connection is particularly visible in the case of care for people with HIV and AIDS.” [Page 170]

“Against this backdrop, available, accessible and affordable care services have a double role to play. On the one hand, these services can promote the autonomy, rights and capabilities of those who need care and support. This has been a longstanding demand of disability rights movements, for example. These movements have also denounced the fact that social services are often provided in ways that curtail rights by restricting the autonomy and preventing the full participation 171 of people with disabilities in their communities. People with disabilities are subjected to degrading procedures and confinement in institutions, often with high rates of abuse. Activists have also directly challenged the notion of care itself as disempowering and objectifying of people with disabilities, especially if it is conceived of as a oneway flow of giving and receiving.” [Page 170]

“Research and advocacy on care have focused primarily on the rights and needs of caregivers, both paid and unpaid. They have highlighted the emotional and financial costs of caring and constructed a comprehensive policy agenda around greater recognition and material support for carers in terms of time, money and services. The rights and needs of care receivers, in contrast, have received relatively little attention in debates around care. The disability movement has forcefully exposed this bias. People with disabilities have broadened the policy agenda on care by identifying themselves as subjects of rights, not objects of care. Furthermore, they have drawn attention to the fact that people with disabilities are often caregivers themselves. In the fight for their human rights, people with disabilities have emphasized the importance of empowerment, autonomy and self-determination both in their lives and in how their support needs are met. These challenges may seem to pit the rights of caregivers against those of care receivers. In fact, however, both constituencies share common histories, goals and interests. Both have struggled against oppression, inequality and discrimination. Both suffer from a lack of entitlements and social support systems that would protect them against impoverishment and exploitation. While each side has its specific concerns, there is a common agenda to be built around recognition and resources. For example, transformations in the physical and social infrastructure, by providing better and more accessible transport options, enhance the autonomy of people with disabilities while at the same time reducing the demands on those who support them. Alliances must be forged between the disability rights movement and organized caregivers around common demands for affordable, accessible and adequate services and infrastructure to work towards ‘a fulfilling life both for the carer and the cared-for’.” [Page 171]

“In general, however, policy responses to the care needs of dependent adults—including frail elderly people and people with disabilities—have been gaining ground more slowly than those responding to the needs for childcare, even in developed countries. Public expenditure on elderly care remains low.228 Families, friends, neighbours and community networks provide the bulk of long-term care, with women assuming most of the related unpaid work.” [Page 175]

“In a rights-based approach to macroeconomic policy, investments in human beings should not be judged solely with regard to their effects on productivity or per capita income. Social policies that support care for the elderly, discussed in Chapter 3, or that enhance the lives of those with severe disabilities, for example, are also critical to the realization of rights even when they have little direct impact on economic growth.” [Page 219]

Read more about the Progress of the World’s Women Report 2015-2016.


RI Global: Founded in 1922, Rehabilitation International (RI Global) is a worldwide network promoting the rights and inclusions of persons with disabilities (PwDs) through advocacy, habilitation and rehabilitation to achieve an inclusive world in which all people can enjoy full human rights.

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