The Safety and Wellbeing of Women and Girls with Disabilities is a Responsibility for All
The outbreak of COVID19 placed women and girls with disabilities in extenuating circumstances with its escalation of pre-existing inequalities within communities of women and girls with disabilities, domestic and gender-based violence, unplanned and unwanted pregnancies, income, and food insecurity and above all heightened the social stigma against them.
COVID19 preventive measures such social distancing and self-isolation further robbed women and girls with disabilities of the assistance and support of their family members and support staff like personal assistants and guides. These were not just support staff but would also provide psycho-social support to women and girls with disabilities when need be especially in instances of domestic and gender-based violence. Exclusion from mainstream Women’s Rights Organisation response measures against domestic and gender-based violence during this period also exacerbated the situation for women and girls with disabilities.
COVID19 has bred more than fatigue within us as individuals and communities. It has encouraged suicide, depression, and anxiety yet some of us had the support of technology and social media to maintain both social connectivity and psycho-social support from peers. Most women and girls with disabilities have not been so lucky because they lack the ICT devices, digital literacy, financial means, and skills to take advantage of technology for psychosocial support. This has doubly affected survivors of violence who have not only had to endure violence for a prolonged period but are without access to the necessary support systems to alleviate such traumatic events.
Considering the prevailing circumstances, never has a theme “The Wellbeing of One is the Responsibility of All” for the 16 Days of Activism be more appropriate than this year’s theme. It calls upon communities to band together and support each other in re-building their mental, physical, and emotional health. This can only be done through nutritious balanced diets, constant hydration, spiritual wellbeing and physical exercise for women and girls with disabilities that can manage it. At the core of wellbeing are peer-to-peer support systems for the provision of psycho-social support and counselling for all women and girls with disabilities to reduce on the havoc COVID19 and gender-based violence have wrought on their lives and livelihoods.