SEMINAR HIGHLIGHTS CHALLENGES FOR WOMEN WITH DISABILITIES
The Australian Embassy marked Women with Disabilities Day on 29 March with a seminar which brought together organisations working on disability issues to highlight the challenges facing Filipino women with disabilities, particularly the deaf, and the support available.
The knowledge sharing seminar, which also marked the end of International Women’s Month, was hosted by the embassy in partnership with the De La Salle- College of Saint Benilde School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies.
In his welcome address, AusAID’s Minister Counsellor Titon Mitra noted the right of women to be free from all forms of violence was enshrined in the Philippines’ Magna Carta of Women and in international agreements such as Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
“As signatory countries to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Philippines and Australia have committed to securing the safety, rights and equal opportunities of disabled persons, including disabled women,” Mr Mitra said.
“A 2008 Demographic and Health Survey found that one in five women in the Philippines experiences physical or sexual violence. This figure is disturbingly high. Although there is lack of data specifically on the situation of disabled women, we can, unfortunately, be sure that the situation is even worse for them.”
The seminar provided an opportunity for participants working on women’s issues, disabilities, and deaf peoples’ issues - including NGOs, and government agencies such as the Philippines National Police, Philippine Commission on Women and National Council on Disability Affairs - to share experiences, ideas and synergies between their work. Participants expressed a strong desire to continue the dialogue and to explore opportunities for productive collaboration.
A short film produced by the Filipino Deaf Women’s Health and Crisis Centre on the issue of abuse of deaf women was featured during the event. The film highlighted how deaf women are especially disadvantaged when it comes to protecting and defending themselves against violence. A shortage of sign-language interpreters in the law enforcement and court systems limits the ability of deaf women to access justice.
The Australian Government has made people with disabilities a priority for its aid program. Australia’s ‘Development for All’ strategy aims to improve quality of life for people with disabilities, strengthen prevention efforts and promote international leadership on disability and development. The Philippines-Australia Community Assistance Program (PACAP) has supported a number of projects addressing the needs of people with disabilities, including women. These include: increased access to basic education; community-based rehabilitation; life skills; and livelihood, employment and income-generating activities.