Development and human rights for all

Panel Discussion: Rural Women and Girls with Disabilities – Economic Empowerment and Political Participation

United Nations Headquarters, Conference Room 6, 28 February 2012, 1:15 to 2:30 p.m.

In accordance with its multi-year programme of work (2010-2014), the 56th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in 2012 will consider "The empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges" as its priority theme.

The 56th session therfore provides a critical opportunity for strengthening policy guidance and developing concrete and focused recommendations to promote more sustained and accelerated efforts to empower women and girls with disabilities in rural areas and increase their rate of participation in decision-making processes.  This Side Event is designed to contribute to a full understanding of the issues under discussion and to assist the CSW in its deliberations.

The Side Event will present an overview of the situation of rural women with disabilities and will explore a wide range of strategies that can enhance the empowerment of rural women with disabilities. 

The panel discussion will:

  • Explore key strategies to enhance the empowerment and participation of rural women with disabilities, by identifying policies and practices, institutions and means of participation that have proven effective in supporting the empowerment of women and girls with disabilities;
  • Identify concrete recommendations for action in support of rural women and girls with disabilities’ empowerment to guide CSW in accelerating the implementation of policy commitments on the ground;
  • Provide an opportunity to promote the leadership and participation of women and girls with disabilities in decision-making in international, regional and intergovernmental processes and outcomes;
  • Highlight specific issues confronting rural women and girls with disabilities and strategies to address them, such as empowerment, education, healthcare, including sexual and reproductive healthcare, transportation, hunger and malnutrition; access to credit, including micro-credit, land ownership and transfer of property, payment for farm labour, access to technology to foster efficiency; access to justice; impact of conflict and disaster situations; stereotyping; violence against women; trafficking and sexual exploitation; political and community participation; and participatory development. 

Welcoming Remarks

  • Ms. Akiko Ito, Chief, Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities/DESA


  • Ms. Stephanie Ortoleva, Esq., Senior Human Rights Legal Advisor, BlueLaw International, LLP

 Live Cultural Performance by Women and Girls with Disabilities from Bhutan

  • Song and dance to be performed by 10 women and girls with disabilities from rural areas of Bhutan, who have travelled to Thimpu to participate in this side event via video conference

Opening Remarks

  • Ms. Elizabeth Broderick, Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission and Australian delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women
  • Mr. Arvid Linden, Head of Division of Analysis, HANDISAM, Swedish Agency for Disability Policy and Coordination


  • Ms. Helen Meekosha, Associate Professor, University of New South Wales and Board Member, Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA)
  • Ms. Duptho Zam, English Teacher and Performing Artist, Royal Academy of Performing Arts of Bhutan and Disability rights Expert  (via video conference)
  • Ms. Myra Kovary, E-list Moderator, International Network of Women With Disabilities (INWWD)
  • Ms. Lois A. Herman, Women’s UN Report Network (WUNRN)

Sponsors: Government of Australia, Permanent Mission of Sweden to the United Nations, UN Department of Economic &Social Affairs, Women Enabled, Women with Disabilities Australia &Women’s UN Report Network.

Background resource:

Expert Contribution by Ms. Stephanie Ortoleva (Moderator)

Other resources: