September 22, 2023


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Barrier-free Environment Urged For Women With Disabilities

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Barrier-free Environment Urged For Women With Disabilities

ISLAMABAD: While Pakistan ranked 147th among 188 countries in the gender inequality index, women with disabilities are a largely overlooked minority in the country and there is a dire need to include them in the process of decision making and legislation.

This was stated by speakers at an event, ‘National summit for the empowerment of women with disabilities’ organised by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the National Forum of Women with Disabilities (NFWWD) on Tuesday.

The summit was held to assess the current situation of women with disabilities in Pakistan and highlight the challenges and opportunities for their growth, and brought together over 100 participants, including representatives from government departments and humanitarian and development organisations, to chart a way forward on a more disability inclusive environment in the country.

NFWWD Chief Executive OfficerAbia Akram said a barrier-free environment was required for assisting women with disabilities and guide them to reach their full potential and achieve autonomy.

“This cannot be done without including the voice of these women in mainstream gender and disability decision-making processes,” she said.

There is need to include them in process of decision-making,legislation, say speakers

Adviser on disability inclusion at the ICRC Mohammad Iqbal said immediate realisation of efforts was needed for inclusion of girls and women with disabilities in all walks of life.

“This includes their engagement through advocacy, sectoral capacity building programmes, and creating a space for their meaningful collaboration with the government multilateral agencies,” he said.

During a group discussion, the participants emphasised on the needs for systematic efforts for segregation of data to design inclusive policies and service delivery based on targeted individual and environmental requirements.

They also discussed prevalent challenges, shared best practices and made recommendations for a way forward to enable full participation of women and girls with disabilities as well as ways to combat stigma and discrimination.

The discussions led to the creation of an action plan for the promotion of capacity building, advocacy and partnerships to facilitate the inclusion of girls and women with disabilities and their representative organisations in decision making and policy formulation.

“It is important to understand the nuances of exclusion from the perspective of women and girls who are living with a physical disability in Pakistan. I hope that the dialogue will be helpful in filling the gap in the society,” said a participant, Fouzia Luni.

In 2018, the Lahore High Court (LHC) stopped the use of words for persons living with disabilities such as blind (Andha), hearing impaired (Goonga/Behra) and physically impaired (Langra) in official matters and directed the government to make modifications in the Disabled Persons (Employment and Rehabilitation) Ordinance of 1981.

The decision emphasised the use of “person centred language”. It also recognised that “discrimination against any person on the basis of disability is a violation of the inherent dignity and worth of a person”.

Similarly, the Supreme Court of Pakistan issued directions to the federal and provincial governments to stop using derogatory words such as ‘disabled’, ‘physically handicapped’ and ‘mentally retarded’ in all official correspondence, directives, notifications and circulars. Words such as ‘persons with disabilities’ or ‘persons with different abilities’ must be adopted instead.

The ICRC’s Disability Vision 2030 aims to design and deliver inclusive, accessible, safe, dignified and people-centric initiatives including targeted physical rehabilitation services, ensure an enabling work environment for people with disabilities and contribute to a legal and policy environment that promotes their inclusion in humanitarian activities.

Published in Dawn, December 14th, 2022

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