Women and Girls with Disabilities: Intersectional Approach for Eliminating Violence and Discrimination


The intersections of gender, age, and disability result in multiple, intersecting and aggravated forms of discrimination and human rights violations against women and girls with disabilities, which often remain invisible and unaddressed. 

Globally, there are one billion persons with disabilities. Despite most of these people being women, there is still a very limited understanding of the intersection of gender and disability. 

All persons with disabilities are vulnerable to violence and abuse. However, it is known that women with disabilities have a higher risk and actual experience of violence and abuse through their life-course. Multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination on the basis of gender and disability result in unique and pervasive barriers to the full realization of human rights.

While intersectionality is an established concept, there is still little practical guidance and understanding of how to implement it in a development policy context. In practice intersectionality means that the notion of one-dimensional ‘vulnerable groups’ is insufficient; no group or person consists of one dimension that is inherently vulnerable. For example, women are not treated only as the representatives of their gender, but they can be subject to discrimination on the basis of their age, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity among others. 

Secondly, despite growing interest and research into violence against women with disabilities, targeted efforts to protect their rights are still lacking. Failure to prioritize the collection of data on the situation of women and girls with disabilities, in all their diversity, and report it accordingly perpetuates invisibility. It is, therefore, critical that the rights of women with disabilities are part of Beijing +25 discussions in line with United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Article 6 on Women with Disabilities) which states that States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure the full development, advancement, and empowerment of all women. A well planned, developed, and supported social service workforce is a key component of the system needed to address this issue.


The discussion addressed the following core issues: 

  1. How disability, gender, and age intersect to impact the way that violence affects women with disabilities? 

  2. Explore what we know about the forms of violence experienced by women with disabilities.

  3. Share recommendations on how to operationalize intersectional lenses in gender equality programmes and policies, including social protection.


Catalina Devandas Aguilar, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Stephanie Ortoleva, President of Women Enabled International 

Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo, Global Disability Adviser, World Bank Group

Monjurul Kabir, Senior Adviser, UN Women 


Eppu Mikkonen, Senior Adviser for Gender Equality, MfFA of Finland