A Synthesis of Programs for the Empowerment of Women with Disabilities in Asia
Gurung, Chitra K.
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The many social, economic, political, and environmental disadvantages experienced by people with disabilities (PwD) are intensified by gender based discriminatory attitudes for women with disabilities (WwD) in Asia. There have been many initiatives focused on the empowerment and inclusion of people with disabilities generally, ranging from local self-help groups to programs funded by global agencies like the World Health Organization (WHO). However few programs focus exclusively on WwD within Asia. In order to broaden awareness about these initiatives, this study sought to identify and document such programs. A total 57 programs were identified and analyzed in order to provide a framework and resource for organizations that are working for and with WwD. The study’s analysis found that gender plays an important role in designing and implementing empowerment programs. Often, programs work against their own stated purpose. The dominant cultural belief that women are responsible for causing a child’s disability and must be the “caregiver” of family members with a disability, is often strengthened by programs that target only women. This is counterproductive since men are the usual decision makers in the family, and not reaching them means their decisions are not fully informed by program information. Furthermore, Asian policy makers and development designers are mostly men who give low priority to disability and thus, their “development” agenda mostly exclude WwD. Such exclusion is structural but practices can be improved through education, training, employment and the formation of self-help groups. Increased program partnerships between women’s Disabled People’s Organizations (DPOs) and women’s organizations can make disability a common issue for all women regardless of their disability status. Recognition of the importance of women’s caregiving would help dispel the stigma of disability as a family burden.
Subjectwomen with disabilities