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EDF Women's Voice Newsletter | Issue 28 | October 2021
Women's Voice is about you! It is a way to share and receive updates on gender equality, women's rights and rights of women and girls with disabilities in Europe. Send us your news, events, calls for action and any other relevant news items to include in this newsletter to:

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Dear sisters and colleagues, 

This month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Unfortunately, persons with disabilities still face many barriers in accessing healthcare, which may lead to discrimination and late diagnostic. We are looking for more information and testimonies for our advocacy work. 

We also share with you key take-aways from the session of the UN Disability Rights Committee, including the creation of a Working Group on women and girls with disabilities. At the European level, we give you an update on work of the European Parliament particularly important for women and girls with disabilities, share with you a new Accessibility Toolkit and information on grants and funding opportunities. 

You will also see featured the story of Niamh Ní Hoireabhaird, an Irish disability activist and journalist who was denied assistance to get out of a bus in Denmark. Her testimony was shared on our #DisabilityRealities Blog where you can find more stories written by women with disabilities. 

Is there something you would like to see featured in the next Women's Voice? Contact us! 

In solidarity and sisterhood, 


Marine Uldry
Human Rights Officer
European Disability Forum | nothing about us without us -


Breast Cancer Awareness Month
What about women with disabilities?  

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Did you know that 2.3 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020?

What we do not know is how many women with disabilities are diagnosed, and face late-diagnostic due to inaccessibility of health screening, including cancer screening, and disability-based discrimination in our healthcare systems.

As part of our work on health and in the context of the EU Beating Cancer Plan, we are looking for more information on accessibility of healthcare in EU Member States, including testimonies of women and girls with disabilities in accessing sexual and reproductive healthcare. If you have any information on the topic, please e-mail us

Find more information on EU Initiative on Breast Cancer. 


Take-away from the 25th session of the UN Committee on Disability Rights  

On Tuesday 14th of September, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities closed its 25th session.

During this session, the Committee held two online constructive dialogues with and adopted concluding observations on France and Djibouti. The documents adopted during the sessions, as well as statements delivered in the opening (16 Aug 2021) and closing (14 Sep 2021) are available on the webpage of the Committee.

In the review of France, the Committee raised concerns about the lack of information, including data, on the situation of women and girls with disabilities, inefficient actions to promote women and disability rights through legislation and policy initiatives, issues related to gander-based violence, including forced sterilisation and abortion, and to access sexual and reproductive health services and high rates of unemployment of women.

In relation to Djibouti, the Committee highlighted the lack of consultation with organisations of women with disabilities, issues of gender based discrimination and violence, the lack of a national action plan to eliminate discrimination against women with disabilities and the discriminatory laws against women and girls with disabilities by which women may enter into marriage only with the consent of a guardian and exceptions that allows for child marriage. 

In addition, the main decisions presented by the CRPD Committee during this closing session have been the following:

  • The Committee adopted views on 4 individual communications under the Optional Protocol to the CRPD (not published yet).
  • The Committee considered matters related to inquiry procedures under the Optional Protocol to the CRPD.
  • The Committee established a Working Group on women and girls with disabilities. The Committee members of the Working Group seek to strengthen the Committee’s engagement with organisations of women and girls with disabilities in promoting and upholding the rights of women and girls with disabilities and eliminating multiple and intersectional discrimination against them.
  • The Committee adopted an annotated outline of its guidelines on deinstitutionalisation, which will be published soon for consultation.
  • The Committee continued its work towards a General Comment on Article 27 of the CRPD, whose draft will be published soon for consultation.
  • The Committee continued its engagements with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Special Envoy of the Secretary General for Disability and Accessibility.
  • The Committee decided that its 26th session will take place in Geneva between 7 March and 26 March 2022, and that the 15th Pre-sessional Working Group will take place between 28 March and 3 April, 2022. The list of countries that will be reviewed is not yet available.


New EDF Toolkit on Accessible online meetings 

Accessibility is key for the inclusion of persons with disabilities. In the digital world, it means that online meetings and events need to be set up to allow and encourage participation of persons with disabilities. 

As part of the VIVID-T project, EDF published an Accessible Online Meeting Toolkit. The toolkit will help you to improve the accessibility of online events that you are organising. The toolkit focuses on Zoom and gives you a set of recommendations and tips ensuring that your events are inclusive for all. 

Update from the European Parliament 


Pay Transparency Directive 

The co-rapporteurs on the Pay Transparency Directive have adopted a Draft report with amendments on the Directive. Following advocacy on inclusion of women with disabilities, the rapporteurs included reference to accessibility of information (with reference to the accessibility act and the web accessibility directive) and disaggregation of data and statistic by gender, age and disability. 

The European Parliament and the European Council (representing Member States) will negotiate the legislative proposal which will be led by the French Presidency (January-July 2022). We will keep you informed about the process. 

Resolution on gender-based violence as EU crime 

The European Parliament adopted a resolution with recommendations to the Commission on identifying gender-based violence as a new area of crime listed in EU Treaties. This is an excellent news in the direction of a future EU legislation on combating violence against women. Although there are limited references to violence against women and girls with disabilities, one specific paragraph mentions the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the prevalence of violence they face. 

Virtual round-table on improving access to European funding Women’s Funds

The PROSPERA Network of Women’s Funds Europe would like to invite you to a virtual round-table on improving access to European funding Women’s Funds. This year will be crucial in setting the future funding direction, delivery and defining the European Institutions’ approach to the EU Gender Equality Strategy and the Gender Action Plan III. This event will hear from a range of experts from the European Institutions, regions and civil society partners, and European networks. 

The experts workshop will examine the following questions: 
  1. How to strengthen funding instruments for grassroots women’s Civil Society Organisations (CSOs): Provision of funding which specifically supports grassroots CSOs active at local and national level to build administrative and financial capacity to support the delivery of European funding on the ground.
  2. Empowering grassroots women’s organisations in Europe: Maximising the expertise of grassroots women’s organisations to strengthen community CSO engagement in the next European budget 2021-2027.
The event takes place on Tuesday, 12 October from 10:00 to 12:00. You can register here. 

#DisabilityRealities Blog 

Our Disability Realities Blog features stories and testimonies of persons with disabilities in Europe. This month, read about Niamh Ní Hoireabhaird, an Irish disability activist and journalist who was denied assistance to get out of a bus in Denmark. 
Niamh smiling, wearing a denim light blue jacket and light purple pant, on wheelchair seating at a wooden table outside, with an ice cream on the table
Blog post by Niamh Ní Hoireabhaird, Irish disability activist and journalist.

After spending a year and a half in lockdown in my family home in Ireland, I jumped at the chance to leave and study for my MA in Aarhus, Denmark. Because of the stereotype that Scandinavian countries are progressive and protective of human rights, I wasn’t worried about moving away from home. 

I’ve had a tough time settling into Aarhus. In Dublin, I know the streets with no curb drops and where all the good wheelchair accessible bathrooms are, but here I feel like a fish out of water. The toughest thing to come to grips with here are the busses. On Danish busses, the ramp has to be pulled out and put in place – meaning that wheelchair users must travel with an assistant or hope a kind stranger will help.

Almost two weeks ago, a friend walked me to the bus stop and pulled out the ramp for me before saying goodbye and heading home. When I was exiting the bus, there was nobody around to help me, so I called out to the driver that I needed help – something I’ve done a million times before. The driver then approached me in a very confrontational manner and told me that in the future, I would not be welcome on the buses without an assistant because it was not his job to help me. 

I was stunned. Having been to dozens of different European cities I’ve never had such a bad experience on public transport. In Ireland, buses have an automatic ramp, so the drivers only have to press a button, but it is an unspoken rule that drivers will help any passenger. According to the Danish Institute for Human Rights, 32 European capital cities took part in a survey on the accessibility of public transport, Denmark’s capital ranked the lowest of the list. Bus drivers in Copenhagen are forbidden from helping any passenger onboard.

Although it isn’t forbidden in Aarhus, drivers are not obligated to help. I pointed out to the driver in question that under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities persons with disabilities have the right to travel independently. The driver did not listen and then forced me off the bus. In any other situation, I think I would have stood my ground and argued, but all I wanted to do at that moment was go home and cry.

The next day, I was told by a sympathetic bus driver that I should look into an alternative system here called Flextrafik. Flextrafik is a smaller bus service specifically for people with disabilities who are travelling without assistance. With Flextrafik, the bus needs to be booked in advance, preventing any sort of spontaneity. The UNCRPD protects the ability of disabled people to travel independently, whenever they want. Flextrafik is not a solution for an inaccessible public transport system.

I vented my frustrations on Twitter and was contacted by a journalist at B.T Aarhus who wanted to use my experience as a jumping off point for a larger story about the Danish bus system. I was saddened to learn that this has been an ongoing struggle for the disabled community in Denmark and that the bus companies have made no effort to change.

If anything, the bus companies have changed for the worse. The aforementioned report by the Danish Institute for Human Rights notes that five out of the six bus companies in Denmark have no obligation to help wheelchair users on board. In 2014, half of the bus companies allowed their drivers to help, but today there is just one.

The article notes that Aarhus Municipality plans to become European Access City in 2023. Change won’t happen overnight but there is a lot of work that needs to be done before Aarhus can be considered an accessible city.

Calls and consultations

UN Working Group on discrimination against women and girls European Commission  Eurofound 

Grant opportunities 

“2021 Fund for Covid Solidarity” launched by the Alliance for Gender Equality in Europe

The Alliance for Gender Equality in Europe is pleased to announce the launch of its first call for proposals this September 6, 2021. The “2021 Fund for Covid Solidarity” will distribute grants of up to 50 000€ for organisations working on gender equality and women’s rights in Europe.

The Covid‐19 crisis has stretched many civil society organisations working in the field of gender equality in Europe to the breaking point. Women are facing increased risks of poverty, violence against women and other issues negatively affecting their employment, health, safety and wellbeing. In this context, the Alliance for Gender Equality in Europe has been created to enable donors to combine forces, leverage funding, raise awareness, build support, and help sustain organisations working on gender in the region.

The Alliance is supported by the Fondation CHANEL, the King Baudouin Foundation, and the L’Oréal Fund for Women for an initial period of 3 years and is hosted by the Network of European Foundations (NEF). It emerged from a broad stakeholder consultation and brings together corporate philanthropy and traditional foundation support in a two-part initiative comprising both a pooled fund and a knowledge platform.

For its first call, the Alliance has decided to support organisations impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, including (but not limited to) those working in the following thematic areas:
  • Access to education and training
  • Access to economic resources and entrepreneurship
  • Violence against women/Health and social protection
  • Climate change and gender
  • Technological development and innovation (the digital divide)
The complete call for proposals and modalities of application are attached and can be viewed in this website. The deadline to answer the call is October 6, 2021. 

To learn more about the Alliance for Gender Equality in Europe:

Contact: Nadège Lharaig, Programme Manager (

Urgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights

Need some small, flexible, rapid response grant to support your activism? The Urgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights (UAF) is an intersectional feminist activist fund that makes response grants of up to US$8,000 to women and trans/queer/non-binary human rights defenders, including those with disabilities, and their organisations when they face unexpected security threats because of their activism or unanticipated advocacy opportunities. Supporting mainly groups that are under-resourced, they do not require official registration and can fund informal and unregistered groups, as well as individual activists in North America, Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East. Its Sister Funds  make grants in AfricaLatin America and the Caribbean, and Asia and the Pacific.

You can learn more about UAF on their website and apply for a grant on this webpage. For further information, please contact Elsa Saade ( 

Calendar 2021



4-10 October: European Youth Event 

11 October: International Day of the Girl Child 

12 OctoberVirtual round-table on improving access to European funding Women’s Funds

18 October-12 November: 80th session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (review of Spain) 

28 October: Launch of EIGE's Gender Equality Index 2021 


18 October-12 November: 80th session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (review of Spain) 

25 November: International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women


1 December: Webinar on trafficking against women and girls with disabilities

1 December: EDF Women's Committee meeting  

2-3 December: European Days of Persons with Disabilities Conference 

The European Disability Forum is an independent NGO that defends the rights of over 100 million Europeans with disabilities. EDF is a unique platform which brings together representative organisation of persons with disabilities from across Europe. EDF is run by persons with disabilities and their families. We are a front runner for disability rights. We are a strong, united voice of persons with disabilities in Europe.

Visit EDF website

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Copyright © 2021 European Disability Forum, All rights reserved.

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Director of publication: Marine Uldry

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