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UN Women Deputy Executive Director highlights need to mainstream gender in the disability agenda

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UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri statement for roundtable on “International and regional cooperation and partnerships for disability inclusive development” at the High-Level Meeting on Disability and Development, New York, 23 September.

Date: 23 September 2013

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Excellencies,

Distinguished delegates,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased to speak on behalf of UN Women at this historic event. I would like to thank the co-facilitators of this High-Level Meeting and the co-chairs of this roundtable for your leadership in convening this event.

As we discuss disability and development, we must give special attention to women and girls with disabilities. For far too long, women and girls with disabilities have been invisible – all too often experiencing double discrimination, due both to their disability and to being female.

Women and men face different risks of becoming disabled, or as a result of disability. Women are at an increased risk of becoming disabled because of gender-based, discriminatory practices, such as early and forced marriage, early pregnancy and female genital mutilation among others. As a result, the female disability prevalence rate is 19.2 per cent, whereas it is 12 per cent for men. Even more troubling is the fact that women and girls with disabilities are three times as likely to experience physical and sexual abuse. And they have less access to social services and support systems.

The good news is that increased attention is now being paid to the rights of women and girls with disabilities. The Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) has a separate article on women with disabilities, with special attention to reproductive rights and the right to sexual and reproductive health – rights that are fundamental to the achievement of gender equality and women’s rights. I am also pleased to note that the outcome document of this meeting recognizes the importance of a gender perspective in the disability and development agenda.

UN Women has been working to mainstream disability into the gender equality agenda. At the same time, we also advocate for a gender perspective to be mainstreamed into the disability agenda. Partnerships are essential. As a member of the UN Inter-Agency Support Group for the CRPD, we work with the rest of the UN System and with other actors at all levels. 

In close collaboration with the CRPD Committee and the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), we are also identifying gaps in the realization of the rights of women and girls with disabilities and engaging governments to establish and implement laws, policies and practices that address the intersection of gender and disability.

Helen Keller once said, “The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of tiny pushes of each honest worker.” Through strong partnerships and our common dedication and commitment, we can make a difference for a disability-inclusive development agenda.

Thank you.