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C h a p t e r 7 Women with Disabilities and Cities Rosaly Correa-de-Araujo Ensuring that men and women across the life span and across diverse population groups live meaningful lives and enjoy the full economic growth and social benefits of communities worldwide is a critical humanitarian goal. In pursuing this goal, paying attention to the needs of women with disabilities, especially those living in cities, is of particular importance. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 10 percent of women worldwide are disabled, with a total of 300 million of these women and girls suffering from a mental and/or physical disability (Kern 1997: 244). According to a World Bank report, every minute, more than 30 women are seriously injured or disabled during labor. Regardless of the severity of their injuries and disablement, the 15 to 50 million women suffering from these injuries and disablements do not receive the necessary care or attention they deserve (World Bank 2010). Generally, women report more incidents of disability than men and are at an increased risk of becoming disabled throughout their lives due to limited access to health care, poor conditions at work, and genderbased violence. Women with disabilities face stigma and exclusions and are more likely to get sick, be poor, and suffer from social isolation than either men with disabilities or women without disabilities. Women with mental disabilities are particularly vulnerable. For example, depressive disorders account for approximately 42 percent of the disability from mental or neuropsychiatric disorders among women compared to 29 percent among men (WHO 2010g). However, the broad range of mental health threats to which women are disproportionately susceptible —such as gender discrimination, violence, poverty, armed conflict , dislocation, and other forms of social deprivation—are still poorly understood (WHO 2010g). Women and girls with disabilities remain Women with Disabilities and Cities 111 particularly vulnerable to specific types of abuse (e.g., being beaten at home, raped, and forcibly sterilized). Women with disabilities are at a higher risk of acquiring HIV/AIDS due to lack of awareness and access to information and programs. Folk belief that individuals with sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, can rid themselves of the infection if they have intercourse with a virgin poses a particular risk for girls who have disabilities. These girls are seen as sexually inactive and, therefore, as easy targets. In most industrialized countries, especially in urban areas, the challenge for women with disabilities is to achieve equality of opportunity; they seek access to the same opportunities available to women who do not have disabilities. In urban areas of industrialized countries, women with disabilities often have easier access to health care and rehabilitation services; some have access to education and vocational training opportunities as well. Many hold jobs and/or are married and have families . For these women in the industrialized countries of Asia, Europe, and North America, priorities are to increase access to jobs and selfemployment ; combat discrimination in the workplace; increase the availability of the attendant care necessary to enable many women with disabilities to work; change negative public perceptions and attitudes toward persons with disabilities; and provide easier access to public and private buildings, transportation, and various forms of communication. In most developing countries, especially in rural areas, girls and women generally hold the largest share of the burden of poverty, both physically and economically. For women with disabilities, the situation is even worse, as they are even poorer, are often totally dependent on others for survival, usually have a dismal future, and have less access to food, health care, and education than other family members. In these countries, women are expected to perform all daily household work (e.g., cooking, fetching water and wood for fuel, going to the market , doing washing and laundry, minding younger children, gardening, cleaning the house and yard). However, girls and women with disabilities are often seen as not helpful and so are not expected or encouraged to help with these household tasks, even when physically or mentally capable; as a result, these women and girls are precluded from engaging in a number of activities that could help them develop skills and abilities for employment. They are rarely involved in the decision-making process, either within the family or within their communities. Decisions concerning girls and women with disabilities are generally made for them without any consultation. Furthermore, women with disabilities rarely have opportunities to get married, although many have children . In developing countries, women with disabilities are...


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