Breaking the bias on women with disability this International Women’s Day

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Today is International Women’s Day, a global day to celebrate the social, political, cultural and economic achievements of women around the world. This year’s theme, Break the Bias, draws attention to the obstacles that women still face in society and calls for action on women’s equality. 

It’s a theme that’s close to our hearts at Scope. Whether deliberate or unconscious, bias makes it hard for women to move ahead in life. Just like it does for people with disabilities. And action is needed to level the playing field.

#BreakTheBias asks us to imagine a gender equal world, one free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive – where difference is valued and celebrated. This call to action rings true for the disabled community, too.

Gloria Steinem, world-renowned feminist, journalist and activist explained why International Women’s Day needs to be powered by all.

“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”

Women with disabilities face extra challenges

Consider this. Nearly one in five women living in Australia has a disability. That’s over two million women and girls, including approximately 100,000 girls with disability aged 0-14 and two million women with disability aged 15 and older.

These women with disability can face double discrimination in the form of both ableism and sexism, making the struggle to achieve equality that much more difficult. The discrimination they experience can come in different forms – from barriers to education and employment, to a lack of autonomy about their healthcare. Sadly, women with disabilities are also more likely to experience violence.

Former Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner and Acting Disability Discrimination Commissioner Susan Halliday says women with disabilities are one of the most vulnerable and marginalised groups in Australian society.

“The battle to achieve self-respect and self-acceptance for women, whether they have disabilities or not, is an ongoing one.”

Let’s help #BreakTheBias

Fortunately, things are starting to change. Women are a driving force behind disability support services, helping women with disability to live independently and participate in both the workforce and their communities. 

We’re seeing more women with disabilities pursuing their personal goals, using assistive technologies, transport, physical and occupational therapies, and support workers who help with daily tasks. More than 160,000 women who live with permanent and significant disability are now supported through the NDIS.

There’s also a new national resource on the prevention of violence against women and girls with disabilities, called Changing the Landscape. Launched last month, it was developed with the help of Women with Disabilities Australia. Initiatives like these show that the conversation around women and disability is changing. Together, we can help to break down the biases that remain in our workplaces, our communities, schools, colleges and universities.