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EDF Women's Voice Newsletter | Issue 15 | June 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, 

This month we are not going into details on the content of the newsletter and instead we encourage you to read the two following articles, if you have to pick two: 

You can find the list of the other articles in the table of content below.

In relation to events, we kindly invite you to EDF's webinar on the impact of COVID-19 on women and girls with disabilities in Europe, this Friday afternoon. 

Kind regards, 



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


Pride flag

It's Pride Month - a month to celebrate the LGBTI+ communities and acknowledge the multitude barriers to full enjoyment of their human rights faced by LGBTI+ people all around the world. In this newsletter, we want to particularly celebrate and acknowledge the challenges faced by women and/or intersex people as a whole, cis or trans, intersex or non-intersex, including bisexual women and lesbians. . We also recognise that disability, sexual orientation and gender identity, are some among other facets of one's identity, reminding us of the important of having an intersectional approach in our work. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognises this specifically in its general comment No. 3 on women and girls with disabilities. It was also emphasized in a statement by the International Disability Alliance on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and the intersection with disability.

Last month, ILGA-Europe published its Rainbow Map and Index. It shows that once-leading countries in Europe are falling behind in their commitments to equality for LGBTI people. The 2020 Trans Index and Map published by Transgender Europe which provide information on the legal situation of transgender people in Europe. In all, the 2020 Trans Rights Index & Map found that progress is uneven, and trends are changing, with some countries progressing, others regressing, many stagnating. This setback is moving even faster during the COVID-19 crisis, as States are taking advantage of the situation to threat the rights of trans people, at a moment when trans people human rights, safety and dignity are especially at risk.

Like cisgender and/or non-intersex women with disabilities, trans women and intersex people are at increased risk of violence, harassment, forced treatment and forced sterilisation. For trans women and intersex persons with disabilities those violations are almost unavoidable. Yet the needs of D/deaf and disabled trans and/or intersex people is largely missing from human rights advocacy.

A future EU LGBTI+ Equality Strategy

The European Commission will adopt an EU LGBTI+ Equality Strategy by the end of the year. EDF supports this initiative and will send input to address the inclusion of LGBTI+ people with disabilities.
Consultation on the road map of the strategy is open until 10 July 2020.

European organisations advocating for the rights of LGBTI+ people in Europe:


ILGA-Europe are an independent, international non-governmental umbrella organisation bringing together over 600 organisations from 54 countries in Europe and Central Asia. Their work focuses on advocating for human rights and equality of LGBTI people, strategic litigation and strengthening the LGBTI movement.

ILGA gathering of D/deaf and Disabled LGBTI activists: Website:
Transgender Europe 

Transgender-Europe (TGEU) is a member-based organisation created in 2005. Since then, TGEU has kept growing and established itself as a legitimate voice for the trans community in Europe and Central Asia with 145 member organisations in 44 different countries. TGEU envisions Europe, Central Asia and the rest of the world free from discrimination, where each person can live according to their gender identity and gender expression without interference and where trans people are respected and valued.

Oppression squared: D/deaf and disabled trans experiences in Europe  
The report sets out the various challenges that D/deaf and disabled trans people face in accessing their human rights, and discusses the barriers that D/deaf and disabled trans people experience in attempting to engage with organisations. It includes an extensive list of practical steps that organisations can take to overcome or reduce these barriers.




UN Policy Brief on the COVID-19 crisis through the disability and gender lens

The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs has adopted a new policy brief on the impact of COVID-19 on women and girls with disabilities. It provides policy guidance for governments and other stakeholders to adopt inclusive and accessible measures to not only mitigate the adverse impacts of the crisis but build resilient societies.

It recommends to: 
  1. Consult persons with disabilities and their representative organisations, in particular with organisations of women and girls with disabilities.
  2. Ensure inclusive, gender-sensitive, accessible and non-discriminatory healthcare to minimize mortality of those with disabilities and underlying health conditions.
  3. Ensure individuals’ health, safety, dignity, and self-autonomy in the community and the continuation of health care support and services for persons with disabilities and their families for an independent living.
  4. Provide solutions for remote work and education that are disability-inclusive and gender-sensitive, such as reasonable accommodation at home and access to adapted and accessible materials.
  5. Ensure inclusive and non-discriminatory public information and communication to be accessible to all, including to those with limited access to technology.
  6. Ensure social protection measures are gender– and disability–responsive, and provide targeted financial relief and income support for persons with disabilities and their caregivers who are disproportionately impacted by the crisis.
  7. Promote disaggregation of data by age, sex and disability and gender analysis of the barriers faced by women and girls with disabilities.

Women's Enabled publishes report on COVID-19 at the intersection between gender and disability 

Women Enabled International published a report pulls together responses to a survey from 100 women, non-binary, and trans persons with disabilities across the globe and seeks to provide the guidance States, U.N agencies, and others need to respond to this crisis in a way that fully respects, protects, and fulfills rights at the intersection of gender and disability.

Survey respondents identified that their mental and physical health was being negatively impacted by this crisis, that they feared healthcare shortages combined with discrimination would mean they would not receive needed care if they were to become sick, that they were having trouble meeting their basic needs, and that many were in fear for their personal safety. These issues frequently stemmed from historical and ongoing discrimination at the intersection of gender and disability, which meant that their health, well-being, and rights had not been prioritized both during and before this crisis.

Read the full report here.

UN Women Committee will adopt recommendations to combat trafficking

The UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women is currently working on a general recommendation on trafficking of women and girls in the context of global migration. After launching a call for comments, the Committee received 177 contributions from countries and civil society organisations. 

For the second time, EDF and the International Disability Alliance (IDA) called the Committee to be inclusive of women and girls with disabilities. Women and girls with disabilities are indeed at a higher risk of exploitation and may be more at risk of trafficking in persons, including in the context of global migration.

Recent reports presented evidence of the direct link between some forms of disability and different patterns of trafficking, such as forced begging and labour exploitative practices. Women and girls, with physical or visible disabilities are more likely of being trafficked into forced begging because a visible disability may have a stronger impact on public sympathy. Women and girls with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities are more at risks of sexual exploitation because the traffickers consider them easier to manipulate, as they may not immediately identify themselves as victims, or are less likely to be believed when reporting the abuse. 
Read recommendations from the disability movement:  


Killed by institutional violence and neglect:
Sarah Reed

Portrait of Sarah Reed smiling to the camera

Sarah Reed was found dead in at Holloway Prison in North London in 2016. She was the victim of racism, police brutality, neglect and failure to act by the governor, prison staff, psychiatrist and mental health in-house staff. She was one of 22 women who died in UK prisons that year. What happened to her?

After the sudden death of her newborn baby in 2003, Sarah started to deal with mental health issues and drug additions triggered by the trauma. She was a Black woman with psychosocial disabilities.

In 2012, she was brutalised by a police officer after being falsely accused of shop lifting. A CCTV video showed her being kicked, punched and pinned to the ground by the officer, who then leaned on her neck and broke two of her ribs. The officer was dismissed from the forces and given 150 hours of community service.

In late 2015, while in a secure mental health ward, Sarah claimed that an elderly male patient tried to sexually assault her. She defended herself, was restrained and subsequently arrested, and on 14 October was placed in custody for the purposes of “obtaining psychiatric reports assessing her fitness to plead” by judge’s decision. These reports were not completed until Sarah’s death three months later.

During her time in the ward where she died, Sarah was left in an increasingly distressed state, where she was denied medication, locked up in her cell, alone and isolated. She was designated as so dangerous as to require four prison officers to unlock her door every time someone went in or out of the cell; a measure usually reserved for only the most dangerous prisoners. Visits from her mother, partner and lawyers were cancelled on 11 separate occasions.

After she was found dead in her cell, a prison office told an inquest how a colleague suggested they delay calling an ambulance. Her family was not allowed to see her body for three days and were given conflicting accounts of how she was found.

What happened to Sarah Reed?

Easy to Read version of the Istanbul Convention

In case you missed it, there is now an Easy to Read version of the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. This agreement which applies to many European countries is very long and technical, so an easy to understand format was much needed. We thank very much our member Autism Europe for preparing this document. 

Adopted in 2011, the Convention obliges countries to recognise violence in all its forms (physical, sexual, psychological or economic violence, also harmonising the definition of rape) and to take measures to prevent violence against women, protect its victims and prosecute the perpetrators. The implementation of the Convention is monitored and reviewed by Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, also called “GREVIO”. Women organisations and civil society at large, including organisations of persons with disabilities can take part in the review process by provided reports to the Group of Experts. 

13 countries still have not ratified the Convention, namely: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine and the United Kingdom. The European Union signed but did not ratify the Convention. If you are from one of this country, you can download our sample letter to ask your government to ratify the Convention

To learn more about the Istanbul Convention and how you can contribute to its monitoring, watch the recording of EDF webinar available here

Can EU legislation on pay transparency benefit women with disabilities? 

In May, EDF participated to a consultation of the European Commission on a legislative proposal on pay transparency, as a way to combat the gender pay gap. The idea is that by making wage transparent, employers will have to address pay inequalities between women and men. Why is this important to women with disabilities too? 

We count over 60 million of women and girls with disabilities in the European Union (equivalent to the population size of Italy). Yet, women and girls with disabilities continue to face multiple and intersectional discrimination in all areas of life, including socio-economic disadvantages, low rates of employment and high rates of poverty. On average, figures indicate that:
  • 29.5% of women with disabilities in the EU are at risk of poverty and social exclusion compared to 27.5% of men with disabilities (EU-SILC 2018)
  • only 48.3% of women with disabilities are in employment in the EU, compared with 53.3% of men with disabilities (EU-SILC 2017)
  • The economic inactivity rate among women with disabilities is over two thirds of the total population of women of working age (16-64 years of age)
The status of women and girls with disabilities is thus not only worse than that of women without disabilities, but also worse than that of their male peers. This situation is due of a combination of factors, including unpaid work and salary gap between women and men.
Women with disabilities face pay inequalities due to stereotypes and biases based on their gender and disability, and because of employment in informal or alternative structures. This is particularly the case of women with disabilities working in sheltered workshops with salaries often below the minimum wage.

EDF considers that law on pay transparency could have a positive impact on women with disabilities if it covers the gender AND disability pay gap. Read our recommendations here (download word document).

Join our webinar on impact of COVID-19 on women with disabilities in Europe 

Webinar: left behind? women with disabilities during COVID-19; EDF logo;; Facebook: @EuropeanDisabilityForumEDF; Twitter: @myEDF

With the COVID-19 pandemic, discrimination, abuses and human rights violations against women and girls with disabilities have worsened. What are the specific issues faced by women and girls with disabilities during the pandemic? How can we ensure that intersectionality be a mandatory component to the response to the pandemic to ensure that no women and girls are left behind?

To discuss these issues, EDF organises a webinar on Friday 19 June, 2-3:30 pm (CEST time). 

The webinar will aim to:
  • Outline the specific issues faced by women and girls with disabilities during the pandemic
  • Discuss with EU actors and partners, including women’s organisations, how to work together to protect the rights of all women during and after the pandemic
  • Share good practices and learnings on how to ensure responses to the pandemic that are inclusive of women and girls with disabilities
See full agenda and register here.


Greece: Camp Conditions Endanger Women, Girls

In a new report, Human Rights Watch looked at how conditions in camps for asylum seekers endanger women and girls. 

In relation to women and girls with disabilities, the report finds that: 
  • Women with disabilities face additional barriers because the toilets and showers are far from their shelters over rough terrain or are not adaptable for people with disabilities.
  • Women with disabilities may face additional safe risks, especially if they lack access to necessary assistive devices. Samiya, 40, from Syria, who has a physical disability, said her leg brace broke en route to Greece, further limiting her mobility and increasing her vulnerability in Moria: “Every night there is fighting, I hear people running…. I can’t sleep because I’m afraid that if something happens people will run away, but I can’t run away – how can I?”

Spain: series of webinar on and for women with disabilities

The organisation of women with disabilities, CERMI Mujeres Foundation, continues its series of weekly webinar called "You are not alone" (No estás sola). The series aims to analyse and discuss the effects of COVID-19 specifically considering the situation of women and girls with disabilities and caregivers of family members in various areas. The webinars take place every Wednesday from 16.00 to 18.00. More information is available here (in Spanish).

Accessible resources on COVID-19  

More resources on EDF website.

To read 

Calls and consultations

United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth
United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD)

Grant opportunities for women and trans/queer/non-binary human rights defenders 

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


19 June (online): EDF webinar on the impact of COVID-19 on women with disabilities in Europe 

22 June - 10 July (Geneva, Switzerland): 76th session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (including review of Denmark) [online meeting for expert members]

26 June (online): North America & Europe caucus meeting - with the Director of UN Women New York and a representative from WHO. The event is open to all women’s civil society organisations in the region (particularly those that follow CSW/UN issues).


7 - 10 July (Paris, France): Generation Equality Forum

14 - 16 July (online): ERA's webinar on EU Gender Equality Law for legal practitioners
22 June - 10 July (Geneva, Switzerland): 76th session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (including review of Denmark[cancelled due to COVID-19]

13 - 17 July (Geneva, Switzerland): 78th pre-sessional working group of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women [cancelled due to COVID-19]

29 - 30 July (online): Virtual International Dyslexia Conference


17 August - 11 September (Geneva, Switzerland): 24th session the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (including review of Estonia and France[cancelled due to COVID-19]


17 August - 11 September (Geneva, Switzerland): 24th session the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (including review of Estonia and France)  [cancelled due to COVID-19]

14 - 18 September (Geneva, Switzerland): 14th pre-sessional working group of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities [virtual meetings due to COVID-19]

The European Disability Forum is an independent NGO that represents the interests of 80 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 © 2020 European Disability Forum, All rights reserved.

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Director of publication: Catherine Naughton
Editor: Marine Uldry

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