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UNHCR’s Special Projects for the Empowerment of Refugee women with disabilities WLL Women Leading Livelihoods Division of External Relations Scope. Estimate 10% of world’s population living with disabilities 650 million+ persons with disabilities worldwide

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UNHCR’s Special Projects for the Empowerment of Refugee women with disabilitiesWLL Women Leading LivelihoodsDivision of External


Estimate 10% of world’s population living with disabilities

650 million+ persons with disabilities worldwide

Women %50 of the human population

Minimum 300 million women with disabilities worldwide, 240 million living in developing countries.

Women with disabilities facing multiple discrimination


Displacement and Women with Disabilities

  • Up to 3.5 million displaced people with disabilities
  • With displaced women with a disability the number of effected circle gets doubled
before fleeing persecution
Before Fleeing Persecution
  • The ratio of 1/10 gets much higher up to 1 / 5 in situations of civil conflict, natural disasters, wars…:
  • Serious injuries (landmines, clusterbombs, natural disasters, wars)
  • Disruptions to health care systems
  • Disruptions to school/ social support systems
  • Double discrimination in job market
  • No skills training or employment opportunities for women with disabilities

"I walked into the house with a big bag of wild thyme my father had picked. When I reached into the bag I saw a dark thing. It startled me. I dropped it and it blew up."

says Rasha, a displaced cluster bomb victim in South Lebanon.

while running away for their right to life
While Running Away for their right to life
  • People with disabilities may not survive the run for life
  • Women with disabilities or with children / family members / husbands with disabilities get double restrained
  • Often left behind
  • Seen as a burden obstructing others’ flight
  • Less able to flee / Locked away so can not run away
  • Exposed to physical and sexual abuse during flight
once displaced a refugee
Once displaced / a refugee…
  • It does not mean once disabled people become a refugee, they reach safety
  • “Disabled refugees face a double vulnerability—often the last to receive food, water and care…and, in many situations, viewed as a burden to be left behind.” Sadako Ogata, former UN High Commissioner for Refugees
  • Hidden, marginalized and socially excluded
  • Literally and programmatically “invisible”
refugee women with disabilities
Refugee Women with Disabilities
  • Displaced women with disabilities are triply marginalized by status, disability and gender
  • In most cultures, they are seen as a shame & a sin
  • More exposed to sexual violence, domestic abuse and physical assault (ie. Afghan girl…)
  • Women as primary caregivers face increased workloads, isolation, discrimination and abuse (ie. Iraqi Kurdish woman…)
  • Mothers are blamed for child’s disability and face physical or sexual abuse and abandonment
  • No information about rights or available services in the host countries
  • No opportunities for livelihood

A disabled refugee woman waiting for daily food ration

background to unhcr projects
Background to UNHCR Projects
  • UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
  • Global Change from medical to social & inclusive human rights perspective
  • New UNHCR Policies - both human resources as well as operational)
  • Division of External Relations / Inclusion of disabilities in WLL projects with specific focus on empowerment & integration of refugee women with disabilities
  • WLL being part of private sector partnerships (ie. WIN platfirm..)
  • Incorporation of disability services to the existing programmes
  • Some successful community based programmes once refugee women given a chance (ie. Saharawi Women with disabilities / senate...)
  • Women with disabilities want to learn new skills and find jobs
  • If we want to empower disability communities & support their self-sustained independence;
  • Start with the most forgotten and vulnerable layer in refugee communities as One UN…
  • Under WLL concrete projects for refugee women leading livelihoods, our ongoing talks with ILO and ready for more interagency partnership…
  • Use all possible Interagency platforms such as CAF processes on certain humanitarian crisis (ie. Iraq…)
  • Every Agency brings their expertise through an expert roster as well as funding…

VISIT / WLL women leading livelihood projects page

recommended read refs
Recommended Read & Refs
  • "Gendering the Convention" as per Disabled People's International –Canada- paper presented in Berlin last year
  • UNHCR’s RefWorld website (UNHCR’s knowledge tool)
  • UNHCR's New Policies (internal & operational),
  • Women's Commission for Refugee Women & Children's assessment for UNHCR (7 pilot countries - June 2008) & the Resource Kit on "Disabilities Among Refugees and Conflict Affected Populations"