This year, I am stoked that the theme for International Women’s Day (IWD) is Inspiring Change. Why? Because women with disabilities are inspiring change and IWD is a great opportunity to celebrate their achievements.
Four months ago I joined CBM’s rapid needs assessment team in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. I spent two weeks working in a grueling, fast paced and urgent environment. I remember feeling as though there weren’t enough hours in each day to meet the needs of those devastated by the typhoon. I have never worked so hard and when it sometimes felt overwhelming, it was my colleagues who inspired me to keep going. More to the point it was the women I worked with who inspired me. CBM’s team partnered with a local organization, the Association of Disabled Persons Ilo Ilo (ADPI) to do a needs assessment and deliver immediate relief. ADPI’s team included several women who worked stoically for endless hours to organize food and non-food relief, coordinate volunteers and carry out community assessments. These women, who live with disabilities themselves, dispelled the myth of people with disabilities as recipients of aid. Instead these women led the humanitarian response, making an invaluable contribution to the lives of many vulnerable people affected by the typhoon. These women were inspiring change.
In a world where women with disabilities are among the poorest and most marginalized, it was one of the most empowering experiences I have been part of. Women with disabilities face triple jeopardy in their lives due to their gender; their disability and living in poverty. Working alongside the team in the Philippines, I could hardly begin to imagine what barriers these women must have overcome in their lifetime. I don’t doubt that they knew firsthand what discrimination looked like and how it felt to be marginalized. In the communities, the women would meet with victims of the typhoon, other women with disabilities who had lost everything. The victims drew inspiration and encouragement from receiving support from another woman with a disability.
Feeling inspired? Celebrate this International Women’s Day, with stories of inspiring change from women with disabilities told completely in their own words. Let Sieng Sok Chann from Cambodia inspire you:
or Kazol Rekha from Bangladesh inspire you with their stories told in their own words:
Join the movement of people speaking out about the cycle of poverty and disability alongside people with disabilities in the poorest countries. Sign up to End the Cycle today.
Chelsea Huggett is the Policy and Advocacy Officer at CBM Australia.