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UN Programme on Disability   Working for full participation and equality
Theme: Women with Disabilities

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Women with Disabilities:
Lessons of Reinforcing the Gender Perspective
in International Norms and Standards
Part 2 of 3

What the Platform says about Women with Disabilities

Women with Disabilities Icon The "Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action" were adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women on September 16, 199512 and endorsed by the General Assembly in December 1995.13 By agreeing to its adoption, the Governments present at Beijing made a moral commitment to implement the provisions of the Declaration and Platform for Action. This means that they have committed themselves to do what is necessary to make the recommendations about women with disabilities real.

The Platform for Action contains over 300 separate paragraphs covering all aspects of women’s advancement. Paragraphs on women with disabilities are found throughout the text. Knowledge of these paragraphs is a basic tool for advocacy.

The Platform for Action has six chapters:

    • a mission statement,
    • description of the global framework containing an analysis of how world conditions affect women,
    • brief description of twelve critical areas of concern in which priority actions are required for advancement of women,
    • detailed description of strategic objectives to address these critical areas and of the actions necessary,
    • institutional arrangements and
    • financial arrangements.

In the chapter on strategic objectives, each critical area is described and then a series of specific strategic objectives is set out. For each strategic objective, suggested actions by Governments, non-governmental organizations and others are described.

The paragraphs on women with disability constitute what could be called the women with disabilities platform. The relevant paragraphs of the Report of the Fourth World Conference on Women14 are presented below:

Women with Disabilities Icon "BEIJING DECLARATION"

Paragraph 32. Intensify efforts to ensure equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all women and girls who face multiple barriers to their empowerment and advancement because of such factors as their race, age, language, ethnicity, culture, religion, or disability, or because they are indigenous people;


Paragraph 46. The Platform for Action recognizes that women face barriers to full equality and advancement because of such factors as their race, age, language, ethnicity, culture, religion or disability, because they are indigenous women or because of other status. Many women encounter specific obstacles related to their family status, particularly as single parents; and to their socio-economic status, including their living conditions in rural, isolated or impoverished areas. Additional barriers also exist for refugee women, other displaced women, including internally displaced women as well as for immigrant women and migrant women, including women migrant workers. Many women are also particularly affected by environmental disasters, serious and infectious diseases and various forms of violence against women.

A. Women and poverty

Strategic objective A.1. Review, adopt and maintain macroeconomic policies and development strategies that address the needs and efforts of women in poverty

Actions to be taken

Paragraph 60. By national and international non-governmental organizations and women's groups:

(a) Mobilize all parties involved in the development process, including academic institutions, non-governmental organizations and grass-roots and women's groups, to improve the effectiveness of anti-poverty programmes directed towards the poorest and most disadvantaged groups of women, such as rural and indigenous women, female heads of households, young women and older women, refugees and migrant women and women with disabilities, recognizing that social development is primarily the responsibility of Governments;

B. Education and training of women

Paragraph 71. Discrimination in girls' access to education persists in many areas, owing to customary attitudes, early marriages and pregnancies, inadequate and gender-biased teaching and educational materials, sexual harassment and lack of adequate and physically and otherwise accessible schooling facilities. Girls undertake heavy domestic work at a very early age. Girls and young women are expected to manage both educational and domestic responsibilities, often resulting in poor scholastic performance and early dropout from the educational system. This has long-lasting consequences for all aspects of women's lives.

Strategic objective B.1. Ensure equal access to education.

Actions to be taken

Paragraph 80. By Governments:

(a) Advance the goal of equal access to education by taking measures to eliminate discrimination in education at all levels on the basis of gender, race, language, religion, national origin, age or disability, or any other form of discrimination and, as appropriate, consider establishing procedures to address grievances;

(g) Promote an educational setting that eliminates all barriers that impeded the schooling of pregnant adolescents and young mothers, including, as appropriate, affordable and physically accessible child-care facilities and parental education to encourage those who are responsible for the care of their children and siblings during their school years, to return to, or continue with and complete schooling;

Strategic objective B.2. Eradicate illiteracy among women.

Actions to be taken

Paragraph 81. By Governments, national, regional and international bodies, bilateral and multilateral donors and non-governmental organizations:

(a) Reduce the female illiteracy rate to at least half its 1990 level, with emphasis on rural women, migrant, refugee and internally displaced women and women with disabilities;

Strategic objective B.3. Improve women's access to vocational training, science and technology, and continuing education

Actions to be taken

Paragraph 82. By Governments, in cooperation with employers, workers and trade unions, international and non-governmental organizations, including women's and youth organizations, and educational institutions:

(k) Ensure access to quality education and training at all appropriate levels for adult women with little or no education, for women with disabilities and for documented migrant, refugee and displaced women to improve their work opportunities.

C. Women and health

Paragraph 101. With the increase in life expectancy and the growing number of older women, their health concerns require particular attention. The long-term health prospects of women are influenced by changes at menopause, which, in combination with life-long conditions and other factors, such as poor nutrition and lack of physical activity, may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. Other diseases of ageing and the interrelationships of ageing and disability among women also need particular attention

Strategic objective C.1. Increase women's access throughout the life cycle to appropriate, affordable and quality health care, information and related services

Actions to be taken

Paragraph 106. By Governments, in collaboration with non-governmental organizations and employers' and workers' organizations and with the support of international institutions:

(c) Design and implement, in cooperation with women and community-based organizations, gender-sensitive health programmes, including decentralized health services, that address the needs of women throughout their lives and take into account their multiple roles and responsibilities, the demands on their time, the special needs of rural women and women with disabilities and the diversity of women's needs arising from age and socio-economic and cultural differences, among others; include women, especially local and indigenous women, in the identification and planning of health-care priorities and programmes; and remove all barriers to women's health services and provide a broad range of health-care services;

(o) Ensure that girls and women of all ages with any form of disability receive supportive services;

Strategic objective C.4. Promote research and disseminate information on women's health.

Actions to be taken

Paragraph 109. By Governments, the United Nations system, health professions, research institutions, non-governmental organizations, donors, pharmaceutical industries and the mass media, as appropriate:

(d) Increase financial and other support from all sources for preventive, appropriate biomedical, behavioural, epidemiological and health service research on women's health issues and for research on the social, economic and political causes of women's health problems, and their consequences, including the impact of gender and age inequalities, especially with respect to chronic and non-communicable diseases, particularly cardiovascular diseases and conditions, cancers, reproductive tract infections and injuries, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, domestic violence, occupational health, disabilities, environmentally related health problems, tropical diseases and health aspects of ageing;

D. Violence against women

Paragraph 116. Some groups of women, such as women belonging to minority groups, indigenous women, refugee women, women migrants, including women migrant workers, women in poverty living in rural or remote communities, destitute women, women in institutions or in detention, female children, women with disabilities, elderly women, displaced women, repatriated women, women living in poverty and women in situations of armed conflict, foreign occupation, wars of aggression, civil wars, terrorism, including hostage-taking, are also particularly vulnerable to violence.

Strategic objective D.1. Take integrated measures to prevent and eliminate violence against women

Actions to be taken

Paragraph 124. By Governments:

(m) Ensure that women with disabilities have access to information and services in the field of violence against women;

Paragraph 126. By Governments, employers, trade unions, community and youth organizations and non-governmental organizations, as appropriate:

(d) Take special measures to eliminate violence against women, particularly those in vulnerable situations, such as young women, refugee, displaced and internally displaced women, women with disabilities and women migrant workers, including enforcing any existing legislation and developing, as appropriate, new legislation for women migrant workers in both sending and receiving countries.

F. Women and the Economy

Strategic objective F.4. Strengthen women's economic capacity and commercial networks.

Actions to be taken

Paragraph 175. By Governments:

(d) Support programmes that enhance the self-reliance of special groups of women, such as young women, women with disabilities, elderly women and women belonging to racial and ethnic minorities;

Strategic objective F.5. Eliminate occupational segregation and all forms of employment discrimination.

Actions to be taken

Paragraph 178. By Governments, employers, employees, trade unions and women's organizations:

(f) Implement and monitor positive public and private-sector employment, equity and positive action programmes to address systemic discrimination against women in the labour force, in particular women with disabilities and women belonging to other disadvantaged groups, with respect to hiring, retention and promotion, and vocational training of women in all sectors;

(j) Ensure access to and develop special programmes to enable women with disabilities to obtain and retain employment, and ensure access to education and training at all proper levels, in accordance with the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for People with Disabilities;15  adjust, to the extent possible, working conditions in order to suit the needs of women with disabilities, who should be secured legal protection against unfounded job loss on account of their disabilities;

G. Women in Power and Decision-making

Strategic objective G.2. Increase women's capacity to participate in decision-making and leadership

Actions to be taken

Paragraph 195. By Governments, national bodies, the private sector, political parties, trade unions, employers' organizations, sub-regional and regional bodies, non-governmental and international organizations and educational institutions:

(a) Provide leadership and self-esteem training to assist women and girls, particularly those with special needs, women with disabilities and women belonging to racial and ethnic minorities to strengthen their self-esteem and to encourage them to take decision-making positions;

H. Institutional Mechanisms for the Advancement of Women

Strategic objective H.3. Generate and disseminate gender-disaggregated data and information for planning and evaluation.

Actions to be taken

Paragraph 206. By national, regional and international statistical services and relevant governmental and United Nations agencies, in cooperation with research and documentation organizations, in their respective areas of responsibility:

(k) Improve concepts and methods of data collection on the participation of women and men with disabilities, including their access to resources.

I. Human Rights of Women

Paragraph 225. Many women face additional barriers to the enjoyment of their human rights because of such factors as their race, language, ethnicity, culture, religion, disability or socio-economic class or because they are indigenous people, migrants, including women migrant workers, displaced women or refugees. They may also be disadvantaged and marginalized by a general lack of knowledge and recognition of their human rights as well as by the obstacles they meet in gaining access to information and recourse mechanisms in cases of violation of their rights.

Paragraph 226. The factors that cause the flight of refugee women, other displaced women in need of international protection and internally displaced women may be different from those affecting men. These women continue to be vulnerable to abuses of their human rights during and after their flight.

Strategic objective I.2. Ensure equality and non-discrimination under the law and in practice.

Actions to be taken

Paragraph 232. By Governments:

(p) Strengthen and encourage the implementation of the recommendations contained in the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, paying special attention to ensure non-discrimination and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by women and girls with disabilities, including their access to information and services in the field of violence against women, as well as their active participation in and economic contribution to all aspects of society;

Strategic objective I.3. Achieve legal literacy

Actions to be taken

Paragraph 233. By Governments and non-governmental organizations, the United Nations and other international organizations, as appropriate:

(a) Translate, whenever possible, into local and indigenous languages and into alternative formats appropriate for persons with disabilities and persons at lower levels of literacy, publicize and disseminate laws and information relating to the equal status and human rights of all women, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Declaration on the Right to Development and the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, as well as the outcomes of relevant United Nations conferences and summits and national reports to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women;

(b) Publicize and disseminate such information in easily understandable formats and alternative formats appropriate for persons with disabilities, and persons at low levels of literacy;

L. The girl child

Paragraph 259. The Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes that "States Parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child's or his or her parent's or legal guardian's race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or status" (article 2, para. 1).16 However, in many countries available indicators show that the girl child is discriminated against from the earliest stages of life, through her childhood and into adulthood. In some areas of the world, men outnumber women by 5 in every 100. The reasons for the discrepancy include, among other things, harmful attitudes and practices, such as female genital mutilation, son preference -which results in female infanticide and prenatal sex selection - early marriage, including child marriage, violence against women, sexual exploitation, sexual abuse, discrimination against girls in food allocation and other practices related to health and well-being. As a result, fewer girls than boys survive into adulthood.

Paragraph 270. The girl child with disabilities faces additional barriers and needs to be ensured non-discrimination and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the United Nations Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities.17

Paragraph 272. All barriers must therefore be eliminated to enable girls without exception to develop their full potential and skills through equal access to education and training, nutrition, physical and mental health care and related information.

Strategic objective L.4. Eliminate discrimination against girls in education, skills development and training.

Actions to be taken

Paragraph 278. By Governments and international and non-governmental organizations:

(d) Facilitate the equal provision of appropriate services and devices to girls with disabilities and provide their families with related support services, as appropriate.

Paragraph 280. By Governments and international and non-governmental organizations:

(c) Ensure access to appropriate education and skills-training for girl children with disabilities for their full participation in life;

12 Report of the Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, 4-15 September 1995, United Nations Publication, Sales No. E.96.IV.13, available at gopher://

13 General Assembly resolution 50/42 of 8 December 1995.

14 The full text in English (126 pages), as well as in French and Spanish, is available at gopher://

15 General Assembly resolution 48/96, annex.

16 General Assembly resolution 44/25, annex.

17 General Assembly resolution 48/96, annex.

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United Nations, 2003-04
Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Division for Social Policy and Development