Activists have called for inclusivity of people living with disability, especially women, in fighting against Gender Based Violence (GBV).
The call was made during an event organised by Paper Crown Rwanda (PCR) on December 2, which brought together activists, partners and people living with disability.
PCR is a feminist non-profit organisation that works with youth to transform gender norms, foster leadership and create lasting social change.
The event took place on the eighth day that commemorates the 16 days of Activism dedicated to combating GBV under the theme ‘Unite, build a violence-free society.’
Speaking to The New Times, Claudine Mukarusine, the project manager of promotion of anti-discrimination practices at the National Union of Disability Organisations of Rwanda (NUDOR), said that women with disability face discrimination because most people don’t know their rights.
“Some people in our society think that impregnating a woman with disability is doing her a favour since there is no one to marry her,” she said.
Mukarusine said that programs like sexual reproductive health and rights, Girls rooms at school, should be inclusive to equip everyone with the knowledge about their rights and how to get help in case they need it.
“We miss an opportunity to participate in discussions as women with disability because of being discriminated in our homes, workspace and school,” she said.
Mukarusine said that some women and men with speech impairment, or any other form of disability face challenges in reporting GBV cases since sometimes they fail to get a sign language interpreter.
She added that there is also gap in research on how many people with disabilities are abused.
Gisele Umutoniwase, who works with the Rwanda Women’s Network on a Program of GBV Prevention and Response, said that one of the challenges they face is reaching out to women with disability to equip them with knowledge that they need to stay protected against GBV.
Umutoniwase said that there is need for awareness on rights of people with disability, adding that they need resources that can help victims access referrals, Police, Isange One Stop Centres as well as information.
The Program and Partnership Manager of PCR, Clementine Nyirarukundo, said that, “When we are addressing GBV against women, we need to remember that we are not affected the same way, since women with disability face double discrimination- being a woman and having disability.”
Nyirarukundo said that there is a need to unite our voices and help them reclaim their rights, since they don’t have the same needs with the ones without disability.
“We call upon society to join hands with women with disability so as to fight GBV,” she said.
GBV remains one of the most prevalent and persistent issues facing women and girls globally. Worldwide, 1 in 3 women experience physical or sexual violence across their lifetime, and for women with disabilities, the situation exacerbates.
According to PCR, evidence shows that women with disabilities are more likely to experience domestic violence, emotional abuse, and sexual assault than those without a disability.