META and UN Women Against Sexual Harassment

By Virginia Ossana and Hailey Fox

How are sexual harassment and disability related? UN Women is working on a publication that gathers good practices to use as a guideline for policy design. To that end, the agency is hosting a series of online consultations with women with disabilities. Yesterday, Virginia Ossana and Hailey Fox participated in the first event of the series.

Women Committed to a Cause

Hailey, from the United States, and Virginia, from Argentina, represented META in this first online consultation. To prepare for the occasion, they themselves conducted a consultation among other women in the movement. Among the points underscored by those consulted were the fact that initiatives to eliminate violence against women, including sexual harassment, need target males with disabilities as well, and the need for deaf persons to have access to quality interpretation services when reporting gender violence before the law.

A diverse exchange!

Hailey and Virginia exchanged and shared knowledge and experiences with women from various organizations  from the Americas, Asia and Europe, including Women Enabled, Inclusion Europe, Autistic Minority International, European Union of the Deaf, European Disability Forum and Disabled Women’s Network of Canada.

Participants mentioned specific cases of harassment and shared strategies and good practices to address this situation.

Topics and experiences discussed

Some of the delegates talked about the legal capacities of persons with disabilities, including those with intellectual disabilities, and also discussed the lack of credibility victims face. One participant shared the strategies used in her organization to tackle this issue, such as designing cards with drawings showing different types of violence, which makes it easier for women with intellectual disabilities to describe their experiences. 

VIrginia highlighted the fact that  many a time persons with disabilities are considered to be asexual or to lack control over their sexual drive and also drew attention to the ways in which women with disabilities are subject to a two-fold discrimination.

Hailey talked about the communication barriers faced by the deaf, and she also explored the relationship of men and power at the workplace, who, feeling threatened, undermine the credibility of women with disabilities. 

Another topic explored was the power dynamics among caretakers/family members and women with disabilities.

The consultation was a very fruitful exchange opportunity and stood as an example of how women with disability are carving out a place in policy design and the international sphere. New consultations are coming up. We want to keep participating and joining new voices. We want to be heard!

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