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EDF Women's Voice Newsletter | Issue 19 | November 2020
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, friends and colleagues, 

Wednesday is the international day on elimination of violence against women and girls. In that occasion we share with you a specific article on violence against women and girls with disabilities and advertise several events on the topic. You can still register to EDF's event taking place tomorrow

In addition, we are pleased to bring to you the key points of recently adopted documents: a General recommendation on trafficking in women, a joint statement on sexual harassment, and the EU Gender Equality Index 2020. Don't forget to check other events and calls you may want to join. 

Wishing you a good reading- in solidarity and sisterhood, 


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



Violence against women and girls with disabilities

25th of November is the international day on elimination of violence against women. This day is a reminder of the various violations faced by women in all regions of the world. A day during which women and girls with disabilities must not be forgotten, as they are fighting every single day against violence.

Women and girls with disabilities living in Europe are particularly at risks of violence. Data show that, on average, they are 2 to 5 times more likely to face violence than other women and girls. In the European Union, 34% of women with a health problem or a disability have experienced physical or sexual violence by a partner in their lifetime.

Violence may include domestic and gender-based violence, institutional violence, forced sterilisation, contraception and abortion, and harassment, including sexual harassment. They also include disability specific violence to which women and girls with high support needs are more at risk. This type of violence include restraint, sexual abuse during daily hygiene routines, removal or control of communication aids, violence in the course of treatment, overmedication or withholding medication.

COVID-19 and lockdowns: catalyst of domestic violence

Data shows that since the COVID-19, and especially during lockdown measures, violence against women and domestic violence has intensified. For example, in France, reports of domestic violence have increased by 32% during the lockdown and in Cyprus, helplines have received an increase in call of 30%. Although we do not know the proportion of women and girls with disabilities victims of violence during the pandemic, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has reported that, women with disabilities, likely facing higher numbers of domestic violence, are reporting less. This lower reporting is due to barriers pre-existing the pandemic, such as a lack of awareness, inaccessible helplines and reporting mechanisms, and overall lack of accessible support services for victims with disabilities.

Stuck in institution, raped by her “carer”

(by Luisa Bosisio Fazzi, Italian Disability Forum and member of EDF Women’s Committee)

Troina Oasis institution- concrete building of a rose colour, trees in front
Photo: Troina Oasis, institution for persons with disabilities in Troina, Italy 

During the COVID-19 lockdown many women and girls with disabilities living in institutions are trapped inside, without the possibility to leave or see their families. In some cases, they are not even able to communicate with their family or close ones. Violence taking place in institutions and other closed settings have been very hard to monitor since the beginning of the pandemic. In many cases the acts of violence remain unknown. In other they are discovered months later. This is an example from a terrible case in my country, Italy.

Last March the military was deployed to “protect” persons living in institutions during the COVID-19 lockdown. Their presence did not prevent or detect the abuse and rape faced by a woman with disabilities in Troina Oasis- an institution for persons with intellectual disabilities. While they managed the COVID-19 outbreak that led to 160 infections in the institution, nothing prevented the rape of one (or more) of their residents. The rape in question was discovered by the family of the victim, once the institution was re-opened for visits. She was pregnant. The staff of the institution seemingly did not know.

Only after reporting it to the management did they investigate and, with confirmation of the pregnancy, made a report to the judiciary. The police then acted quickly and identified in a few days the rapist. He was arrested after confessing to the rape.

I want to ask some questions: How many women and girls with disabilities are being raped in silence? Are the victims “lucky” that there is a proof of the crime when they get pregnant? Is the forced contraception of women in institution another way to protect rapists from their crimes? When will governments realise the seriousness of the issue?

This case is an example among probably thousands of others. How many women and girls with disabilities have been raped and faced violence before and during the pandemic, we will not know. What we know is that those crimes are happening in silence, and are seldom reported and prosecuted.

Read in Italian: "Nemmeno i militari hanno 'messo in sicurezza' quella donna con disabilità" di Luisella Bosisio Fazzi


UN Women Committee adopts General recommendation on trafficking in women and girls

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) adopted its General recommendation No. 38 (2020) on trafficking in women and girls in the context of global migration. EDF and other organisations of persons with disabilities and women with disabilities had submitted inputs at various stages of the drafting process. 

This new General recommendations, that should guide States in the implementation of the Convention on Eliminations of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, recognises that trafficking in women and girls is rooted in sex and gender-based discrimination, gender-based structural inequality and the feminization of poverty. 

What does it say about women and girls with disabilities? 
  • Women and girls most vulnerable to being trafficked belong to marginalised groups whose life experience is marked by serious rights deprivation. This includes women and girls with disabilities. 
  • Trafficking victims are in need of immediate availability and quality support services, that must be inclusive and accessible, including access to information on their rights, medical, psychological, social and legal services available to them and how to access them as well as to safe and appropriate accommodation. Adequate assistance must be provided to women and girls with disabilities who are a particularly vulnerable group to be trafficked.
  • States must provide special economic and social support to disadvantaged groups of women and girls such as those in extreme rural and urban poverty, stigmatised and racialised groups, sexual abuse survivors and women with disabilities. 
  • States must provide all women and girls with accessible information in a format they can understand about their rights. 
  • States must disaggregate data collected on both victims and perpetrators of trafficking on all parameters considered relevant (including by sex, age, disability, ethnicity, nationality, immigration status, location, socioeconomic status and all forms of exploitation). 
Read the General Recommendation.

Joint statement on sexual harassment against women and girls with disabilities

On 22nd October, the United Nations Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities adopted a joint statement on ending sexual harassment against women and girls with disabilities. 

In the statement, the two committees recognise that disability and gender intersect to shape sexual harassment, which might not fit common understandings of this form of gender-based violence. Disability and gender also intersect to exacerbate experiences of, create or complicate barriers to ending and achieving justice for, sexual harassment.

Through a variety of actions, they committed to ensuring their work serves as a platform to amplify the voices of women and girls with disabilities. This includes: 
  1. Recognising sexual harassment as a human rights violation of gender equality principles that intersects with other dimensions of inequality, such as disability. It involves unwelcome sexual conduct, from looks to words, to touching, to interfering with assistive devices, to physical contact, to sexual assault and rape.
  2. Treating the experiential knowledge of women and girls with disabilities as core to shaping initiatives intended to prevent, combat, sanction and eliminate sexual harassment, and to create the cultural change necessary to end it.
  3. Ensuring the centrality of both gender and disability inequalities in efforts to end gender-based violence against women.
  4. Contesting the range of factors that inhibit the realisation of the rights of women and girls with disabilities to be free from sexual harassment and other forms of violence, and that deny the justice and rights protection.
  5. Working to amend all laws that prevent women and girls with disabilities from reporting gender-based violence or discourage them from doing so, such as guardianship laws.
  6. Working in partnership with civil society organisations and, in particular, with organisations of women with disabilities, to prevent all instances of sexual violence.
  7. Working to promote the adoption of measures by national authorities to fulfill the rights of women and girls with disabilities to live independently and be included in the community and to end institutionalisation.
Download and read the joint statement. 

Application open for the WILD programme

Women with disabilities around the world are invited to apply for the 10th International Women's Institute on Leadership and Disability (WILD) programme to be held in Eugene, Oregon, USA from August 21 - September 11, 2021 (tentatively). Please share wildly through your networks. 
3 women with disabilities smiling (from left to right: blond wman of short stature with a red t-shirt, woman on a wheechair wearing a veil and top with orange/red flowers, woman with dark hair with dark red sweater). Photo credit

About WILD 

MIUSA’s Women’s Institute on Leadership and Disability (WILD) will bring together approximately 25 women leaders with disabilities from approximately 25 different countries, to strengthen leadership capacity, create new visions and build international networks of support for inclusive international development programming. 

During the three-week program, participants will take part in workshops, seminars and discussions, conduct on-site visits, and participate in team-building activities, to explore challenges and exchange strategies for increasing leadership opportunities and participation of women and girls with disabilities in international development programs.

Check you eligibility and apply. 

Deadline to apply is Friday 11 December 2020


2020 Gender Equality Index

The European Institute for Gender Equality released its 2020 Gender Equality Index. 

The Gender Equality Index is a tool measuring the progress of gender equality in the EU. It gives more visibility to areas that need improvement and supports policy makers to design more effective gender equality measures. Many information are disaggregated by disability, giving a better understanding on how issues affect women with disabilities comparing to men (with and without disabilities) and women without disabilities, at national and EU levels. 

What do we learn about the situation of women with disabilities? 

  • Only 20.6% of women with disabilities are in full time employment, comparing to 28.5% of men with disabilities and 48.5% of women without disabilities.  
  • 32,9% of women with disabilities are employed in education, human health and social work activities. It's an higher proportion than woman without disabilities (31.1%) and men with disabilities (11%). 
  • Only 24.7% of women with disabilities report being able to take a couple of hours off during workhour to take care of personal or family matters. It's more than women without disabilities (22.6%), but less than for men with (29.2%) and without (27.2%) à disabilities. 
Earnings and poverty
  • Average monthly earning of women with disabilities are lower than both men with disabilities and women with disabilities. The monthly earning of men with disabilities (2368 eur) is on average higher than the one of women with (1734 eur) and without disabilities (1899 eur). 
  • 22% of women with disabilities are at risk of poverty, comparing to 20.8% of men with disabilities and 15.9% of women without disabilities.
Tertiary education
  • Only 15.2% of women with disabilities graduate tertiary education, comparing to 17.5% of men with disabilities and 29.6% of women without disabilities. 
Care activities
  • 28.8% of women with disabilities care for and educate their children or grandchildren, older people or people with disabilities, every day, comparing to 20.4% of men with disabilities
  • 78.8% of women with disabilities are doing cooking and/or housework everyday, compare to 41.4% of men with disabilities and 78.7% of women without disabilities 
  • 20.2% of women with disabilities perceived themselves in good or very good health, comparing to 22.8% of men with disabilities 
  • 6,7% of women with disabilities have unmet needs for medical examination, comparing to 5.9% men with disabilities and 2.3% women without disabilities 

Upcoming events for the international days of elimination of violence against women

Several events are taking place for the international day on elimination of violence against women and girls. This week, we invite you to learn more about violence faced by women and girls with disabilities. 

EDF webinar on violence against women and girls with disabilities 

On 24th of November, the European Disability Forum and Inclusion Europe organise a webinar to raise awareness about the various forms of violence, including disability-specific violence, faced by women and girls with disabilities, including those living in institutions. Bringing together women with disabilities and representatives from organisations of women with disabilities, the women's movement, the cabinet of Commissoner Dalli and Council of Europe's GREVIO the discussion will aim at discussing actions needed to end violence. 

Date and time:  Tuesday 24 November, 10-12:30 (CET) 

Accessibility: the webinar will provide International Sign interpretation and real-time captioning (English).

Register to EDF webinar. 

EUD webinar on best practices: supporting deaf women victims of domestic violence 

The European Union of the Deaf organises a webinar on supporting deaf women victims of domestic violence. The presenters will discuss existing best practices to support deaf women and girls victims of domestic violence. The webinar specifically aims at encouraging National Associations of the Deaf across Europe to exchange information to ensure that deaf women and girls victims of domestic violence are afforded the best level of support as victims.

Date and time: Wednesday 25 November, 10-11 am (CET) 

Accessibility: The webinar will be in International Sign. Spoken English interpretation as well as real-time captioning will be provided. 

Register to EUD webinar. 

High-level event “Towards a gender equal world - The EU Gender action plan and the EU’s contribution to Beijing +25”

High level event toward a gender equal world, Wednesday 25 November 2020 - banner

This week, the European Commission will launch the new EU Gender Action Plan – an agenda for gender equality and women’s empowerment in EU external action (GAP III).

An online high level event is organised for the launch. The event provides an opportunity to participate in multi-stakeholder discussions and gain insights into innovative approaches to addressing the gender gap in key thematic areas, including freedom from violence, access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, economic and social rights and empowerment, equal participation and leadership of women and girls, the Women, Peace and Security agenda, the gender dimension to green transition and digitalisation policies.

EDF Vice President, Ana Pelaez Narvaez will be speaking in the afternoon session.  

Register to the high-level event.

Call for research

Participate in a research on women with disabilities

Aoife Price is currently recruiting women with disabilities for her research. 

Aoife is a staff member of EDF and is researching women’s participation in the disability and women's movement, and she invites you to take part in her research. It is not a requirement to be part of both movements, but an understanding of both would be helpful.

The research is looking at alliances between social movements with a focus on the disability and women’s movement. As part of this project, Aoife is completing a PhD at the National University of Ireland, Galway. If you are interested in finding out more, please contact Aoife at

Other calls and consultations

European Commission 
Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences
European Disability Forum

Grant opportunities 

Participate in Beijing +25 / Generation Equality Forum

Urgent Action Fund recently launched a Beijing +25 Advocacy Grants Program

The grants will aim to amplify the leadership of women and gender diverse communities, including women activists with disabilities, engaging with the Beijing +25/Generation Equality Forum (GEF) process to review and follow-up on the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on its 25th anniversary. The grants will fund activities from several regions, including Eastern and Western Europe. 

Rather than activists who regularly participate in international UN advocacy, UAF’s Beijing +25 Grant will fund activists with limited experiences with UN global advocacy spaces and some activists who are new to those spaces but find them strategic. 

The deadline to apply is 1st December 2020.

Read more information about the Beijing+25 Grant.

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 ( 

2020 Calendar



24 November (online)EDF webinar on violence against women and girls with disabilities

25 November (online): High-level Event- Towards a Gender-Equal World

25 November (online): EUD webinar on supporting Deaf women victims of domestic violence

30 November (online): meeting of EDF Women's Committee (for members of the committee only)


1-2 December (online): European Days of Persons with Disabilities and access city award ceremony

7 December (online): Webinar on Disability Rights and Sexual Health: Inclusion in sex education and sexual health programmes

8 December (online): Event on the Crossroads of Exclusion: Addressing Increases in Gender-based Violence Against People with Disabilities

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

Funded by the European Union

Copyright © 2020 European Disability Forum, All rights reserved.

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Director of publication: Marine Uldry
Contributor: Luisa Bosisio Fazzi 

This EDF Mailing is issued in English, and is addressed to EDF Members and allies. Readers are invited to reproduce the information provided the source is quoted and that the confidential nature of the information is respected. Please note that EDF cannot be held responsible for the content of external websites.
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