Read about DRF's latest updates and discover our grantees' impact in advancing disability rights around the world!

 DRF Newsletter - March 2016
  Dear fellow advocates, friends, supporters and colleagues,
Diana Samarasan headshot
As I write this delayed introduction to our March newsletter, we are still reeling with terrible news from last week from Cabaret, Haiti, where three young deaf women were lynched after being accused of witchcraft by members of their own  community.
This event has caused great sorrow in the disability community in Haiti and more broadly, yet it has also been met with defiance, resolve, and new partnerships: a march was held in Port-au-Prince on the morning of April 1 to call for justice for the victims and an end to violence against women with disabilities across the country. Our Haitian grantees, such as  l'Association des Sourds de Lévêque d'Haïti (ASLH) and RANIPH, are working with supporters in the legal aid community, including the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and Bureaux des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) on next steps.

Men and women marching holding banners with various messages in support of the murdered women
Marches were held in Port-au-Prince on Friday to protest the killings
People with disabilities are too frequently victims of violence, conflicts and
disasters. Recognizing this, many in the disability community are preparing for the upcoming  World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in May, where post-conflict and post-disaster response will be discussed. In the spirit of "leave no one behind", the Summit will have a focus on inclusion of people with disabilities. We hope that this will help realize the ambitions of the CRPD, the Sendai Disaster Risk Reduction framework, and the new Sustainable Development Goals.

In March, DRF joined billions of women and women-led organizations around the  world in celebrating International Women's Day. DRF has been a long-time supporter of women-led organizations and coalitions and, since 2008, has given more than $2 million to projects benefitting women and girls with disabilities. As part of this year's celebrations, our colleagues at Women Enabled International published results of their Survey and Mapping Project, which found that  half of all women-led disability rights organizations surveyed cited DRF as one primary funding source. The full report can be found through this link.
We are proud of the women with disabilities with whom we work, and share some of their stories of working at the intersection of women's rights and disability advocacy in this newsletter. Our grantees are pushing for equality, gender parity, and meaningful change: from passing a historic national Disability Rights Act in Indonesia to gaining access to justice for abused women with disabilities in Bangladesh, our grantees around the world continue to challenge the laws and norms that obstruct equality and social justice.
We hope you enjoy this edition of the DRF newsletter, and we thank you for all that you do.

Diana Samarasan
Founding Executive Director

New DRF website launching on 10-year anniversary of the CRPD
DRF is pleased to announce that, on the 10th anniversary of the entry into force of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, May 3rd, we will be launching our new website. Keep an eye out for a formal invitation to join the movement to change one billion lives!
News from around DRF
DRF Board Co-Chair William Rowland receives 2016 National Disability Award
William Rowland speaking during a 2015 DRF event
DRF congratulates Dr. William Rowland, DRF/ DRAF Board Co-Chair and former Global Advisor, for receiving the National Lifetime Achievement Award during the  Disability Rights Summit  held on 10 - 12 March in Pretoria, South Africa. The awards were presented to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the field of disability rights. Read more on this story by clicking   this link.

DRF staff person leads advocacy for DeafBlind community in Massachusetts
Kerry Thompson headshot
DRF Information and Program Coordinator Ms. Kerry Thompson
One of the most marginalized communities in the world is the DeafBlind community. Even within the disability community, people who are DeafBlind are frequently excluded. On March 4, 2016, the Disability Rights Fund's Kerry Thompson - a longtime self-advocate  - testified before the Massachusetts Joint Ways and Means Committee to ensure that the DeafBlind community is included in the Massachusetts State budget. 

After  hearing Kerry's testimonial and others from the Deaf and DeafBlind community, Senator Patricia Jehlen remarked, "I think this is a group of people whose voices have not been heard and I commend you for being organized and articulate this year."
Kerry continued her advocacy efforts at the Massachusetts State House's DeafBlind Awareness Day on March 30th. Here, the community came to advocate to legislators for better support in education, healthcare, employment, and technology. As the Master of Ceremonies for the event, Kerry stood before the crowd and said she feels "a change happening in our community and we are finally being heard."  You can follow Kerry on Twitter at @KerrySpeaksUp.   

UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities report 

UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Ms. Catalina Devandas-Aguilar
UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and former DRF/DRAF Program Officer,  Ms. Catalina Devandas Aguilar, published a report this month on obstacles to participation of persons with disabilities in national and international policymaking. Her report, 
Meaningful Participation of Persons with Disabilities: A pending challenge for an invisible billion, issues a stern critique of governments who have not fulfilled their promises to increase participation of persons with disabilities in policy dialogues.

Due to stigma we are mostly invisible, we rarely occupy positions in governments, and we are normally not consulted about policy-making, even when the issue directly affects us (...) Our voices are simply not heard. Our exclusion is a loss for society as a whole. And it goes against the idea of 'leaving no one behind," - Catalina Devandas-Aguilar, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
In the report, Ms. Devandas-Aguilar urges all governments to engage in direct consultation with organizations of persons with disabilities. Read the full report by following  this link.
DRF Grantee Feature Stories
Rights of women refugees with disabilities: An interview with NUWODU
Two people sit at a table_ side by side_ smiling at the camera
DRF Program Officer Med Ssengooba (left) interviewing Jolly Acen, NUWODU Executive Director
According to the UNHCR, an estimated 7.6 million persons with disabilities are forcibly displaced worldwide. In situations of conflict and displacement, women with disabilities frequently face a variety of human rights violations, including violence, abuse and exploitation. Despite this fact, women with disabilities are often excluded from women's protection and empowerment activities within humanitarian assistance programs and lack access to sexual and reproductive health information and services in camp settings. 
With DRF funding, the National Union of Women with Disabilities of Uganda (NUWODU)  is tackling this issue head on by advocating for the rights of refugee women with disabilities living in Uganda. In an interview conducted by DRF Program Officer Med Ssengooba earlier this month, Jolly Acen, NUWODU's Executive Director, spoke on the plight of refugee women with disabilities in Uganda and NUWODU's work. Download the full story here (Word Document).

Increasing access to reproductive health services for women with disabilities: An interview with IDIWA
A woman in a white collared shirt stands and reads aloud from a page extended in front of her
Elizabeth Kayanga, Executive Director of IDIWA
One of the main challenges faced by women with disabilities - who are subject to higher rates of sexual violence and rape, and higher risk of exposure to HIV - is lack of access to good quality sexual and reproductive health services. Sometimes, in the developing world, this is due to gaps in local infrastructure or medical facilities, but most often, it is caused by physical, attitudinal and communication barriers including: social stigma and isolation, discriminatory practices, inaccessible physical environments, lack of accessible information, and incorrect beliefs about women with disabilities as asexual beings. 
Integrated Disabled Women's Activities (IDIWA), a women-led disabled persons' organization in Uganda and a DRF grantee, is working to increase access to inclusive reproductive health services for women with disabilities in the Iganga district. In March 2016, DRF Program Officer, Medi Ssengooba sat down with IDIWA's Executive Director, Elizabeth Kayanga, and learned more about their work. Download the full story here (Word Document).

Promoting the right of women and girls with disabilities to own property in Rwanda
two women and one man stand side by side in white shirts. One woman holds a gardening tool.
Mukandoli Seraphine (center) tells her story of claiming her land back with HRFRA's support
In 1999, the government of Rwanda implemented important legal reforms, which granted women the right to own and use land on an equal basis with men. This marked an important victory in national women's rights. However, pervasive discriminatory social practices and cultural beliefs about disability have prevented women and girls with disabilities from claiming their rights, undermining the intent of the land reforms.
DRF grantee, Human Rights First Rwanda Association (HRFRA) is working to support women with disabilities to exercise their right to land ownership through legal aid services and rights trainings. DRF Program Officer Jorge Manhique, met with Mukandoli Seraphine, a woman with disability from Kamonji District in the south of Rwanda who won her land back with the support of HRFRA, to hear her story.  Download the full story here (Word Document).

NCDW-BLAST partnership for access to justice for women with disabilities
Nasima Akter_ NCDW President posing for photo
Nasima Akter, NCDW Presiden,
In Bangladesh, women with disabilities face discrimination at the family, state,institutional and social levels. They are frequently denied their rights to education, employment and political participation. They also experience high rates of sexual violence and abuse but cannot seek legal redress due to inaccessible legal services; lack of understanding and knowledge of legal processes; prohibitively expensive legal fees; and institutional discrimination in male-dominated societies and justice systems. As a result, most cases of violence against women with disabilities go unreported or are dismissed by members of the community and justice sector.
To address this situation in Bangladesh, the National Council of Disabled Women (NCDW), a DRF grantee, has been working in partnership with the Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) to increase access of women and girls with disabilities to justice. Together, they are collecting data on the prevalence of violence and abuse among women with disabilities, documenting rights violations, and litigating cases in court. They are also educating women and girls with disabilities on their right to justice and legal representation; and providing accessible, pro-bono legal services to empower victims of abuse to take their cases to court.  Download the full story here (Word Document).

DRF/DRAF Grantees in the News
DRAF Indonesia grantees lead in passage of historic Persons with Disabilities Act

Representatives from DRF Indonesia grantees stand in front of a banner
Women united to move forward for disability rights
Four years following Indonesia's ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the disability movement is celebrating a new win. On March 17, 2016, the Persons with Disabilities Act passed. The new bill adopts a human rights approach and complies with the CRPD. This is a significant political and social milestone for Indonesia's 36 million people with disabilities.
The team behind this major legislative reform includes: Center for Election Access for Citizens with Disabilities (PPUA Penca), the Center for Indonesian Law and Policy Studies (PSHK), the Indonesian Association of Women with Disabilities (HWDI) and the Indonesian Association for Mental Health. With support from the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund (DRF's sister fund), this coalition, led mainly by women with disabilities, drafted the legislation and drove advocacy for its passage over the past two years. Congratulations to the Indonesian disability community!

DRAF grantee, ASEAN Disability Forum (ADF), gains observer member status in International Disability Alliance
Call to action on the SDGs issued by ADF, ARROW and CREA to make the 2030 agenda more inclusive of persons with disabilities!
The ASEAN Disability Forum (ADF)  - a network initiated in 2009 and composed of Disabled Persons Organizations in the ASEAN region - is a platform to coordinate advocacy for disability inclusive policy in the framework of ASEAN. ADF brings the voice of 
grassroots  DPOs to policy makers.

The Disability Rights Advocacy Fund began supporting ADF three years ago,  to enable strengthening of its Secretariat and initiation of partnership 
development, e specially to address the rights of women with disabilities in ASEAN. In the fall of 2015, ADF, together with partners CREA, a feminist human  rights organization based in India, and ARROW (the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Center for Women) based in Malaysia, collaborated to make a strong call for inclusion of people with disabilities in the new global development agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Following a convening of regional disability networks, coordinated by the  European Disability Forum (EDF), the International Disability Alliance (IDA) and the International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC), in Brussels in late February, ASEAN Disability Forum and Africa Disability Forum -  both relatively new networks - were recognized as new members of IDA. We congratulate ASEAN Disability Forum on this milestone and look forward to continued growth and achievements!

PDF advocates for the rights of women and girls with disabilities in Geneva

Nelly Caleb_ PDF co-Chair_ spekaing during CEDAW session
Nelly Caleb, PDF co-Chair, speaking during CEDAW session
Nelly Caleb, co-Chair of the Pacific Disability Forum (PDF), travelled to Geneva in late February to participate in a series of trainings and high-level meetings ahead of the 63rd session of the UN Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee), where she presented on Vanuatu's implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). 

This trip presented an opportunity for the voices of persons with disabilities from the Pacific Island Countries to be heard in high-level conversations concerning not just women's rights, but other issues such as Disaster Risk Reduction planning.  Read more on Nelly's experience by following  this link.

GDF promotes awareness of disability rights through Regional Media Caucus 
Image with blue background and a figure in white standing over its shadow which is a light blue figure in a wheelchair. Caption says_ Not every disability is visible_
The Ghana Federation of Disability Organisations (GFD), a DRF grantee, is making strides in promoting awareness of disability rights issues on the local and national levels. Earlier this month, GFD established the Ashanti Regional Media Caucus on Disability, a media group designed to carry out investigative research on disability issues while using their media platforms to educate the public on the concerns of Persons with Disability (PWDs).

Find out more about their work using this link.