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Ibrahim El-Salahi Pain Relief at The Saatchi Gallery, London

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Nothing About Us Without Us 

Our First Steps towards Disability Inclusivity  


Above, our eye care project director and eye surgeon, the remarkable Dr. Nabila, carries out an eye examination on one of our literacy participants.

Learn more in Women’s Education Partnership – Eye Care   and in the short video below.  In title photo, one of our older literacy participants suffering from cataracts.


70% of our literacy participants have access to our eye care program. Learn more about our scale and reach in At a Glance

The Long Read

This is a literacy post for Women’s Education Partnership.  See Making a Difference  to learn more about our mission and our impact.

Please consider giving to our life-changing work. Just click on the link below to donate quickly and securely:

 Virgin Money Giving


Nothing About Us Without Us

Our First Steps Towards Disability Inclusivity


Dr.Leila Bashir, community literacy expert, training our facilitators on human rights awareness and how to incorporate their knowledge into literacy training.  


Nothing About Us Without Us: First Steps Towards Disability Inclusivity 

1) Disability Inclusion – The International Commitment  2) The Sudanese Context  3) The Challenges We Need to Meet and Our Strategy  


1) Disability Inclusion – The International Commitment and Impact of Disability 

The UN takes a rights-based approach to disability inclusion; addressing the physical, communication, legal and attitudinal barriers that people with disabilities face. Women and girls in particular, are disproportionately affected by disability. As populations age, levels of disability will also increase. UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability

Disability Inclusion is the meaningful participation of persons with disabilities in all their diversity, the promotion of their rights and the consideration of disability-related perspectives, in compliance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy 

What does that mean for Sudanese women with disabilities?

Below, A testimony from A Sudanese Disability Activist, supported by ADD International  (Sudan) who are dedicated to empowering disability activists throughout the developing world. Screenshot from ADD’s Sudan Page 


As a development organization, Women’s Education Partnership  is committed to working towards the goals expressed in ADD’s short video below:

It is estimated that 19% of women across the world have a disability, compared with 12% of men.  Evidence across many indicators (health, sexual and reproductive health and rights, water and sanitation, and gender-based violence) demonstrates that women and girls with disabilities are marginalized and discriminated for their gender as well as for their disability. 

DFID Disability Inclusion Strategy


The theme for this 2019 IDPD is ‘Promoting the participation of persons with disabilities and their leadership: taking action on the 2030 Development Agenda. The theme focuses on the empowerment of persons with disabilities for inclusive, equitable and sustainable development as envisaged in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which pledges to ‘leave no one behind’ and recognizes disability as a cross-cutting issue, to be considered in the implementation of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Under the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, for the first time in history, people with disabilities are clearly included in a universal and ambitious plan to end poverty and hunger by 2030 which pledges to leave no one behind.

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability


One of our participants at Al Fatih literacy circle who later received eye treatment as part of our eye care program. Below, children of participants attending our circle at Al Fatih are welcomed into the group. 


“Despite millions of people escaping poverty over the last 20 years, the global situation and wellbeing of the majority of people with disabilities has not improved.

The poorest of the poor are increasingly difficult to reach, and the growing concentration of poverty and inequality in fragile states and sub-Saharan Africa – alongside other pressing issues such as climate change, conflict and humanitarian crises, urbanisation and unequal access to technology – make the challenge of eradicating poverty even greater.

More than half of all people with disabilities live in countries affected by conflict and natural disasters.”

Department for International Development – Leaving No One Behind


“Households with a disabled member are more likely to experience material hardship – including food insecurity, poor housing, lack of access to safe water and sanitation, and inadequate access to health care.”

World Report on Disability 2011, WHO 

img_5693Above, scenes from the doorway of our literacy circle in Jebel Aulia, one of the most deprived areas of Khartoum.  

With only intermittent electricity supply, little local health and educational infrastructure and no running water, our literacy participants and their families face exceptional levels of hardship.  For those with disabilities, the challenges are even greater. 

The little boy above perches on the family’s donkey-drawn water cart that supplies water to the neighbourhood for those who can afford to buy it. 


Above, Jebel Aulia.  Below, looking in onto our literacy circle during graduation celebrations in November this year



2) The Sudanese Context – Five Key Points 

The Figures   The Legal Context  The Practical Impact  The Impact on Women and Girls  Educational Impact of Disability 

Sudanese culture is overwhelmingly one that is tolerant, kind and caring. However, as in all societies there are failings, as expressed by a research interviewee below:

“……Many people with disabilities are not educated. Those who want to go to school do not have money to pay for school fees. The reason disabled people are under-educated is because they are always hidden at homes. Second, many people can’t afford the bus fare, you cannot find information about jobs. Third, persons with disabilities are not given information about availability of resources….” Southern Sudanese Displaced interviewee living in Khartoum.

Understanding Disability in Sudan, Master’s Thesis by Leon Nyerere, 2011, University of Manitoba, focusing on the significant  barriers to inclusion of internally displaced South Sudanese with disabilities into the larger Sudanese society.

Understanding Disability in Sudan


The Figures 

Estimates of the number of Sudanese with some form of disability vary from 4.8% (pre-secession  2008 survey) to nearer 6% of the population.  Accurate data assessment is hampered by a lack of research in this field.  It is estimated that women make up 47.85% of Sudanese with disabilities, most living in rural areas.  Sudanese with disabilities are highly dependent on non-governmental and foreign-funded support. 

Read more on the data in Equal Rights Trust’s Sudan – In Search of Confluence


The Legal Context 

Revision of Sudan’s 2009 Persons with Disabilities Act led to the Disability Act of 2017,  in an attempt to incorporate a human rights-based approach to disability into Sudanese law.  Civil Society Organizations specializing in this field, however, have identified key failings in recent legislation.  According to the reply by Civil Society Organizations to UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, no provision which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability has been  made and the definition of disability fails to include psycho-social disability. Neither does it consider denial of reasonable accommodations for people with disability as a form of discrimination.  There are  no local language translations, sign language or braille versions of the legislation.  In terms of of intersectional discrimination – disabled people who are women, for example –  there are no specific measures stated.

Source: Reply from CSO’s to the List of Issues in Relation to the Initial Report of the Republic of Sudan 


The Practical Impact of Disability Non Inclusion on Everyday Life  

There is no state package of incentives for private businesses to recruit disabled employees and public employees have cited practical barriers to their appointment and inclusion.  Unemployment among the disabled in Sudan is therefore high.  People with disabilities in Sudan can find themselves reduced to or exploited as beggars

Although there are social security incapacity benefits under poverty reduction measures in Sudan, the benefits people with disabilities receive are inadequate and fall short of their basic needs and “do not allow disabled Sudanese to live independent lives”.  The lack of suitable assistance services means that disabled people in Sudan are highly dependent  on their families, many of whom are poor.

Public transport in Sudan is not required to make special provision for disabled users. 

Source as above 


img_0140“Assistive devices and prosthetic limbs, hearing aids, visual aids and aids for people with intellectual disabilities are very expensive and only few people with disabilities can afford them. it must also be noted that such devices and aids are not subsidized by the state.”

Source: as above.


Jebel Aulia 


The Impact of Disability Non Inclusion on Women and Girls 

According to numerous Sudanese civil society organizations, women and girls with disabilities face significant additional levels of stigmatization, exclusion and discrimination.  Women and girls with disabilities are more at risk of FGM arising from the belief that the practice will protect them from sexual assault and it has been claimed that non consensual sterilization is also a significant risk for disabled women and girls.  In conflict areas, where women are already vulnerable to sexual violence and abuse, women and girls with disability are even more vulnerable to assault, rape and other forms of violence. 

“It must be noted that children with disabilities suffer from being excluded and kept in hiding by their families in fear of the social stigma associated with disability.  Families also have some prevalent misconceptions that children with disabilities will never benefit from education.”

“According to the research participants, some individuals with disabilities have
developed a sense of worthlessness and anger because of the constant negative stereotypes directed at them.” 

Southern Sudanese displaced interviewed in Understanding Disability in Sudan

There exist “tremendous social restrictions” for people with disabilities when it comes to marriage and things are even worse for women with disabilities.” Source below:



Women with Disabilities, United for their Rights in Sudan


Educational Impact of Disability Non Inclusion on Women and Girls 

Sudan is a broadly tolerant and inclusive society where the community supports its members.  However the following has been noted by CSO’s specializing in disability inclusion:

“People laugh at you and insult you. Some disabled people have refused to attend school in spite of encouragement from their families.”  Understanding Disability in Sudan 

In the context of an overstretched and inadequately resourced education system, girls with disabilities suffer considerable additional discrimination and lack of access to resources.  The key issues are summarized below:


Source: Reply from CSO’s to the List of Issues in Relation to the Initial Report of the Republic of Sudan 


Scroll down to the end of this blogpost to read more from this detailed breakdown of the educational disadvantages faced by women and girls with disability, produced by Cheshire Homes International.



3) The Challenges We Need to Meet and Our Strategy 

Women’s Education Partnership is already active in supporting our literacy participants, sponsored school children and partners who have visual disabilities  but we constantly recognize that there is much more to be done.  

Coming posts will be focusing in more detail on our eye care work. 


Women’s Education Partnership – Eye Care


 We are now taking the first steps towards integrating DFID Disability Inclusion Strategy and UKAID Disability Inclusion into all our programs.   We understand that our stakeholders with disabilities need to be engaged, consulted, represented and listened to at all levels of decision-making in our programs.   We hope that our stakeholders with disabilities will graduate from our programs empowered to be leaders in their household,  community, institutions and society.  

We recognize that we have a long road to travel.  The first steps we are taking are to  strengthen existing links and actively forge new links with civil society organizations, such as ADD Sudan, who are experts in the field in order to learn from their expertise and tap in to local networks serving women with disabilities.  


Over the coming months we will be identifying and reaching out to women with disabilities in all the communities we serve with literacy circles.   We have contacted our existing participants and recent graduates, inviting them to help us get in touch with any members of their community with disabilities who might wish to join our literacy communities and emphasizing our commitment to open and inclusive practical support to women with disabilities. 

As part of our initial outreach we are integrating questions on disability inclusion into our existing surveys and data collection to ensure our program will effectively reach people with disabilities.  A modified version of the Washington Group questionnaire will be integrated into our data reviews.

At the same time, we have earmarked funds for essential assistive technology (wheelchairs,  walking frames, etc) that our literacy participants with disabilities might need in order to attend our literacy circles and are investigating what support options in terms of companions, interpreters and detailed regular personal feedback we need to put in place to best serve our participants with disabilities. 

We are very aware too that we need to incorporate sensitization and awareness training into our training program for literacy workers so they will be equipped to tackle any levels of stigma or discrimination they find during their literacy sessions.   We will be undertaking this training over the coming months.  

This is the first phase of a long-term commitment to serving those with disabilities we work for.   We recognize we will make mistakes along the way. We recognize that this will take time and are blessed to have the unstinting commitment of our staff to making this happen.

Please consider donating to our life-changing work by clicking on the link below:

 Virgin Money Giving


 More on this vital work in coming posts.

img_5703Educational Impact of Disability Non Inclusion 

Still Left Behind Pathways to Inclusive Education for Girls with Disabilities Leonard Cheshire Disability, 2017 





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