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CSW61: RI Global Advocates for Working Women With Disabilities

Outline: Rehabilitation International ensured women of all abilities had a significant place at the 61st annual Commission on the Status of Women.

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Hewing closely to its theme of "Women's economic empowerment in the changing world of work" Rehabilitation International ensured women of all abilities had a significant place at the 61st annual Commission on the Status of Women.

Through several side events, RI Global worked side-by-side by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and several missions to bring together a diverse network of individuals to share their experiences in strengthening the leadership of women with disabilities in development and society. Despite many conferences and promises, women and girls with disabilities - especially those from crisis-affected communities - continue to be left behind in both development and humanitarian action.

"In developing countries where millions people are not employed, or are underemployed, including graduates from universities and colleges, one can imagine how difficult it is to find employment opportunities for women with disabilities," said RI Global Secretary-General, Venus Ilagan. "It is up to disabled people's organizations to emphasize to governments that they must provide people with disabilities with the same opportunities as others."

"When they follow through, many people are very surprised that there are people with disabilities who have become employed and are doing very well. This has helped to break down the myth that people with disabilities would find it difficult to prove their worth as employees."

A Networking Workshop co-organized between DESA and the Permanent Mission of Japan - Advancing the Leadership of Women and Girls with Disabilities in Development and Society - took stock of progress in promoting existing measures to further the leadership of women and girls with disabilities, including technical assistance programmes, funding and mainstreaming. Through four presentations and a floor discussion, dozens of disabled women identified options for next steps for the United Nations system, Member States, the private sector and civil society, to amplify the leadership of women with disabilities and address persistent barriers to their empowerment.

Another event, Intersectionality of Gender, Disability and Indigenous Identity: Experiences in Cross-Movement Collaboration to Empower Indigenous Women with Disabilities, co-sponsored by the International Disability Alliance and the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund, aimed at combining women's efforts to end violence, exploitation, and human rights abuses against indigenous women with disabilities. Aboriginal women are 2.2 times more likely than non-Aboriginal women to be homeless at some point in their life and were recorded by police as victims of crime an average of 23 times in their lives, compared with 16 times for non-Aboriginal - these figured only increase when that indigenous woman has a disability.

Also associated with CSW61, the Norwegian Women's Public Health Association (Norske Kvinners Sanitetsforening, NKS) - the largest women's association in Norway with 41,000 members in 650 locales - held its annual seminar, supported by RI Global Past-President Jan Monsbakken. Focusing on Women's Economic Empowerment: The Norwegian Model, several speakers presented Norway's problems and solutions regarding the integration of women, migrants and diverse populations, including the disabled, into the workplace.

"Violence against women is the number one problem against gender equality in the workplace," said Secretary-General Grete Herlofson. "Migration is also an undiscovered opportunity for change - women come to us after they have left behind all they had, and they are the number one group without paid jobs in Norway." In addition to the social problems, Herlofson cited a loss of between 6 and 8 billion Krones per year in economic reinvestment ($700 to $940 million) because of women's lack of access to work.

"Gender equality is more valuable to Norway than oil," she added. "To ask whether countries can afford gender equality is to ask the wrong question. It creates a surplus for us; it is crucial for the development of the country."

RI Global enters its second week of CSW61 on Monday, with the following:

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