Advocacy for Women with Disabilities Initiative, with support from Hivos and Welead, organized a walk for Sexual Right and Disability Right in Lagos

Women and girls with disabilities in Nigeria face multiple forms of discrimination and marginalization based on their gender, disability, and socio-economic status. They often experience barriers to accessing education, health care, livelihood opportunities, justice, and participation in public life. They are also more vulnerable to violence, abuse, exploitation, and neglect.

According to a brief by UN Women12, women with disabilities in Nigeria reported various challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as:

  • Lack of access to information, prevention measures, testing, and treatment for COVID-19 due to communication gaps, physical inaccessibility, stigma, and discrimination.
  • Increased burden of unpaid care work due to school closures, lockdowns, and reduced mobility and support services.
  • Loss of income and livelihoods due to the disruption of economic activities, especially in the informal sector where many women with disabilities work.
  • Increased risk of gender-based violence (GBV) due to the heightened tensions, isolation, and lack of protection and response services.
  • Reduced access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services due to the diversion of resources and attention to COVID-19 response.

Hundreds of women with disabilities took over the streets of Lagos on 21st December 2023 to express their sexual and disability rights, as part of a campaign organized by Advocacy for Women with Disabilities Initiative (AWWDI) with support from Hivos and WeLead. The campaign aimed to raise awareness and demand respect for the sexual choices and decisions of women with disabilities, as well as their inclusion in sexual and reproductive health rights programs and policies.

The women with disabilities, who came from different parts of Lagos, marched on the busy streets with placards and banners bearing messages such as “We have the right to love and be loved”, “We are not asexual or hypersexual”, “We want access to quality sexual and reproductive health services”, “We reject forced sterilization and abortion”, “We demand an end to sexual harassment and abuse”, and “We are agents of change, not victims of circumstance”. They also sang songs and chanted slogans such as “My body, my choice”, “Sexual rights are human rights”, and “Disability is not inability”.

The vibrant procession was witnessed by scores of onlookers as the women and girls with diverse disabilities walked confidently on the roads, accompanied by youth volunteers who supported their cause and helped them distribute information, education and communication (IEC) materials to the public. The materials contained messages of disability justice, freedom from sexual attacks, sexual and gender-based violence, choices and inclusion in national sexual health policies and programs.

42 years old Abosede Mosuru who uses a wheelchair shared, “People think that just because we have disabilities, we lose rights over our body and sexuality. But my marital choices or when I have children – that is my decision!”

Other participants echoed Titi’s sentiments on the need to challenge regressive attitudes that the women and girls with disabilities continually battle. Mrs. Amos, mother of a 20 years old daughter with intellectual disability, said, “My daughter deserves understanding around her sexuality too. We want her to feel safe and respected by family and society.”

AWWDI’s Program Manager Mr. Kolawole Jayeoba who led today’s walk affirmed that Nigeria is obligated as a signatory to global conventions safeguarding the sexual rights of women and girls with disabilities, and that urgent actions were needed to translate these commitments into reality.

The Program Manager urged the government to implement the Disability Rights Act, which was passed by the National Assembly in 2018, and to ensure that women and girls with disabilities are respected and empowered in all aspects of their lives. He also called on the state government to provide them with opportunities for education, employment, social protection, and participation in decision-making processes.

The walk was part of a series of activities planned by AWWDI to mark the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, an annual international campaign that runs from November 25 to December 10. The solidarity march concluded with participants emphasizing purposeful collaboration between disability rights groups like AWWDI and the government for meaningful progress on recognizing the sexual consent, needs and autonomy of the country’s over 30 million citizens who are women and girls with disabilities.

AWWDI is a national organization that

AWWDI was co-founded in 2008 by Ms Patience Ogolo, a woman with physical disability
1AWWDI’s mission is to empower women and girls with disabilities, to promote their full inclusion in policies, programs and activities through advocacy, capacity development, awareness raising, networking and alliances, partnership, research and sharing information2AWWDI has over fifty (55) Community Self Help Groups (SHGs) across the country1, which provide peer support, skills training, livelihood opportunities, and access to services for women and girls with disabilities. AWWDI also forms alliances with other civil society organizations, human rights activists, media practitioners, public officials, and international partners to advance its cause3.

About Hivos

Hivos is an international organization that seeks new solutions to persistent global issues. With smart projects in the right places, Hivos opposes discrimination, inequality, abuse of power and the unsustainable use of our planet’s resources. Hivos works towards a fair society where people have equal access to opportunities and resources, where they can participate actively in decision-making processes that affect their lives. Hivos supports initiatives that promote diversity, inclusion, freedom of expression, social justice, democracy, human rights, gender equality, climate justice, renewable energy, food security, and innovation.

About WeLead

WeLead is a program that aims to empower young women leaders in Africa through mentorship, training, networking, advocacy and funding opportunities. WeLead is supported by Hivos as part of its Women Empowered for Leadership (WE4L) program. WeLead believes that young women have the potential to transform their societies by challenging stereotypes, breaking barriers, creating solutions, influencing policies, and inspiring change. WeLead works with young women leaders from various sectors such as politics, media, business, civil society, arts and culture

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *