Nothing About Us Without Us

Statement of the Global Campaign for Education on the Occasion of the International Women’s Day, 8 March 2021

#IWD2021 #InternationalWomensDay

On the occasion of the International Women’s Day, the Global Campaign for Education (GCE) calls on states, the international community and civil society movements to accelerate work and effort around the full realisation of the right to education of girls and women, including girls and women with disabilities.

In developing countries, an estimate of 90% of children with disabilities, in particular girls do not attend school, the literacy rate for adults, mostly women with disabilities is 3%, just 1% of women with disabilities are literate[1] and it has become common knowledge that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened their situation. A pandemic within a pandemic emerged when cases of domestic and sexual violence multiplied in recent months. Furthermore, United Nation Women, confirms that women with disabilities, women that care for dependents with disabilities, including children, and elderly relatives, are now confined to their homes with additional caretaking responsibilities because of social services including educational classes and sessions being canceled.

Addressing the educational needs of girls and women in general, and especially those living with disabilities, requires disaggregated data that can guide better educational responses for these populations that have historically been invisible, ignored and excluded.

Inclusion mechanisms should promote permanent consultation with organisations of people with disabilities and their families and especially should seek to enhance the leadership and participation of young women with disabilities in decision-making spaces, including at the international level. This is particularly urgent when we witness how corporate sectors displace civil society within the international education governance.

Education institutions must contribute to recover learnings lost during the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated sexual and gender-based violence and that is why GCE considers that comprehensive sexuality education with inclusion and diversity focus should be part of the recovery plans for learning as well as of the rapid responses, in a way that leads to the deconstruction of patriarchal roles and prejudices that weigh on girls and women.

The realisation of the Sustainable Development Agenda, especially SDG 4, requires an urgent focus on populations that have been historically discriminated against. Their inclusion in social, economic and cultural benefits and their active incorporation into community and political life is a determining factor for all development indexes to show the progress we expect, and should not be tokenist.

To move forward as a society, we must guarantee the human rights of those who have been left behind. This is the key message of the Sustainable Development Agenda and it also implies putting the emphasis on girls and women, including those victims of violence and those living in extreme poverty, emergency situations, and refugee camps.

Responding to the right to education of girls and women with disabilities begins with urgent political decisions that states must adopt, but requires many other actions in the legal and institutional fields and profound reforms in structures, systems and especially in pedagogical practices.

The traditional school must change to adapt to the needs of girls and female youth with disabilities and lifelong learning can only be a reality in the lives of adult women, only if their preferential right to enjoy formal and non-formal education and technical training is guaranteed.

GCE calls on governments to incorporate women teachers with disabilities into their workforce and to stimulate their continuous education and training, so that regular schools can experiment and grow with the contribution of these persons. This is a right way to enjoy diversity while breaking down stereotypes.

GCE also calls on the education trade unions to continue promoting inclusion practices and demand that States strengthen the mechanisms for assuring girls and women with disabilities their full right to education, according to their languages and cultural needs.

GCE pays tribute to the invaluable contribution of youth and women with disabilities in building a more just world and calls on governments, communities and civil society organisations to work for adoption and implementation of effective transition plans that guarantee the right to education and lifelong learning for all.

[1]Still left behind: Pathways to inclusive education for girls with disabilities