A seat at the table for women with disabilities

By Sif Holst

Today, we are celebrating International Women’s Day. The theme this year is “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”.

We do not have equality today, and when we look towards a sustainable tomorrow, we see a need for change. One example is climate change. Women are especially exposed to the negative consequences of climate change. They constitute the majority of the world’s poor. They are more dependent on natural resources and often have a major responsibility for securing water, nutrition, fuel and other basic necessities. And girls and women with disabilities are especially exposed, being marginalized by both their disability and their gender and often forgotten in any climate initiatives and when there is a need for emergency aid.

Unfortunately, crises and conflicts enhance the vulnerability of girls and women with disabilities. They may find it harder to flee, you often need to evacuate yourself the first part of the way, to evacuation points or to emergency shelters, if you cannot do it, you risk being left behind. And if you want to stay behind, the breakdown of the economy, family and community support, health systems, housing, water and food supplies, education and transportation hit them even harder than those with more resources or fewer needs. Stigmas and double discrimination because of gender and disability make them more exposed to exploitation and assault.

Leave no one behind is the motto of the Social Development Goals process. I believe it should also be our guiding principle when dealing with climate change, when we experience flooding such as those last summer in North Rhein-Westphalia. When we experience war, like the current in Ukraine or even just when we deal with the consequences of the pandemic.  We must learn from the shortcomings we see today and devise better strategies to include women with disabilities in strategies and solutions.

A seat at the table for women of all kinds. That is vital and it can help us create a more sustainable tomorrow, if we design our emergency measures, our climate response, our societies to be accessible for a girl or a woman with a disability, we will create a world where we can all thrive, where we can all be part of a sustainable tomorrow. Let us celebrate women today and keep on fighting for a better world, even if the hill seems steep to climb. Let us leave no one behind in the struggle. 

Sif Holst

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