The Department of Justice and Equality have published the National Strategy for Women and Girls 2017-2020: Creating a Better Society for All.
The Strategy sets out six key objectives to advance gender equality over the next few years:
- Advance Socio-Economic Equality for Women and Girls
- Advance the Physical and Mental Health and Wellbeing of Women and Girls
- Ensure the Visibility in Society of Women and Girls, and their Equal and Active Citizenship
- Advance Women in Leadership at All Levels
- Combat Violence Against Women
- Embed Gender Equality in Decision-making
In our submission to the Department of Justice and Equality, Inclusion Ireland expressed its concern that women with disabilities have often been invisible in discourse on gender equality. There has been little attention paid to the intersection of gender and disability or to addressing the specific concerns of women and girls with disabilities.
Inclusion Ireland welcomes the acknowledgement in the Strategy that:
“Outcomes can differ for women and girls depending on their age, sexual orientation, gender identity, civil status, beliefs, ethnicity or ability. A national strategy is needed to address instances of multiple discrimination and to put forward positive action measures for women and girls who experience particular disadvantages arising from the intersection of gender with other aspects of their identity”.
Inclusion Ireland also welcomes the stated commitment to the values of equality, non-discrimination, inclusiveness, generosity, intersectionality, diversity and respect for human rights in the Strategy.
The Strategy will be monitored and reviewed to track its implementation. Targets and indicators are to be agreed by Autumn 2017 for each action and regular progress reports are to be published. Those responsible for developing targets and indicators must ensure they are inclusive of women and girls with disabilities so that progress for this group can be monitored.
The availability of disaggregated (broken down into different subgroups) data is important to ensure that progress for different groups of people can be measured. The Strategy gives a specific commitment to reporting and monitoring the Comprehensive Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities (CES) and the National Disability Inclusion Strategy in a gender disaggregated way.
The Strategy also assigns responsibility for each action to specific government departments or agencies, along with the timescale for implementation.
Actions on women and girls with disabilities
The Strategy contains some specific commitments on women and girls with disabilities, including:
- Evaluate the impact of the policy of moving from institutional care to living in the community, in terms of the extent of community integration for women with disabilities compared to men with disabilities over the period 2016 to 2019 (2020, National Disability Authority)
- Extend hours of Irish Sign Language (ISL) remote interpretation service to evenings and weekends. Propose legislation to ensure that all public bodies provide Irish Sign Language (ISL) users with free ISL interpretation when accessing or availing of their statutory services (Q2 2018, Department of Justice and Equality)
- Undertake research to guide effective maternity services and supports for women with disabilities during and post pregnancy (Q4 2019, National Disability Authority)
- In the context of supporting a greater focus on women’s participation and on gender issues at community level, the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP) will provide key supports to those most in need in our communities, including women with disabilities, in all Local Authority areas throughout the country (2017-2020, Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government)
- Support women’s community organisations to identify relevant local structures for participation, and support the participation and progression of socially excluded women within these structures locally, regionally and nationally (2017-2020, Relevant Departments)
Inclusion of women and girls with disabilities
The Strategy also contains many broad based actions aimed at achieving the objectives and the Strategy commits to “take account, where possible, of women’s and girls’ diversity” in these actions.
It remains to be seen whether the needs of women and girls with disabilities will be reflected in these actions or dealt with only within disability specific policies.
For example, the Strategy contains a commitment to expanding the BreastCheck screening service but no there is no acknowledgement of the barriers that women with disabilities face in accessing screening services and no actions identified to address this. Rates of screening for both cervical and breast cancer are lower among women with disabilities than the general population and especially low for women with severe and profound intellectual disability.
Careful review and monitoring of targets, indicators and progress reports will be required to ensure that women and girls with disabilities are not invisible in these broad actions.
Click this link to read the National Strategy for Women and Girls 2017-2020: Creating a Better Society for All
Click this link to read the Inclusion Ireland submission