Women and girls with disabilities in conflict and crises

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Helpdesk Query:

What risks/vulnerabilities do women and girls with disabilities affected by conflict and crises face?

What is the available evidence on interventions to support women and girls with disabilities affected by conflict/crises?


People with disabilities have been found to ‘form one of the most socially excluded groups in any displaced or conflict-affected community’ (Pearce et al, 2016: 119). They may have difficulty accessing humanitarian assistance programmes, due to a variety of societal, attitudinal, environmental and communication barriers, and are at greater risk of violence than their non-disabled peers (Pearce, 2014: 4).

Women and girls with disabilities are ‘particularly vulnerable to discrimination, exploitation and violence, including gender-based violence (GBV), but they may have difficulty accessing support and services that could reduce their risk and vulnerability (Pearce, 2014: 4). This rapid review looks at the available evidence on the risks and vulnerabilities faces by women and girls with disabilities in conflict and crises and interventions to support them.

Most of the literature uncovered by this rapid review was grey literature published by organisations working with refugees, rather than peer reviewed articles. The bulk of the evidence was based on work carried out by Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) and their partners.

Dowling (2016: 5) suggests the experiences of disabled refugees in relation to gender and age is a gap in the evidence about which more should be done. Pearce et al (2016: 119) also find that ‘there is a distinct gap in research on the intersection between and among age, gender, and disability in humanitarian contexts’. Field research on violence against women and girls with disabilities or their lived experiences, unique risks, and their specific needs and capacities, in humanitarian settings is still very limited (Pearce et al, 2016: 120). Sherwood and Pearce (2016:5) note that ‘rigorous peer-reviewed research on the inclusion of women and girls with disabilities
in humanitarian action remains limited’, although there is a ‘growing body of literature including organizational assessments and reports, and UN agency and government policies and strategies, that recognizes that women and girls with disabilities face additional risks in humanitarian crisis, and calls for their participation in humanitarian programme design, implementation, and monitoring’.

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