Disability, Sexuality And Rights Online Training And Resource
AWID 2009 Seed Grant Winner: Caroline Earle, Anita Ghai, Janet Price, Ekaete Umoh, USA/ Global
Final Project Report.
As explained in a statement delivered during the final plenary at AWID’s 2008 “the Power of Movements” Forum, many of the women with disabilities attending the Forum felt that while great strides had been made to make the Forum more accessible, progress still had to be made towards making women with disabilities and their issues more visible in women’s rights organizing. To address this issue, this project focused on the creation of an online disability and sexuality training for disabled and able bodied women’s rights activists and others working in development, health and rights around the world. The nine-week training course took place from February to April, 2010 and was organized and taught by the project partners, an international group of academics and activists in the disability rights field who specialize in sexual and reproductive rights and health from a global South perspective.
The goals of this project were to:
- Increase within the women’s rights movement the inclusion of disabled women and the recognition of disability as a women’s rights issue and related to other women’s rights issues.
- Develop awareness and understanding of the control and denial of disabled women’s sexuality and to further knowledge of how to advance disabled women’s sexual rights.
- Build leadership of disabled women in advocacy for their sexual rights.
All three goals were advanced during this course.
The 25 participants represented a number of different movements, especially women’s, disability, sexual rights and health, and women’s rights. About half of the participants worked in organizations or as individuals mostly on disability issues. The rest of the participants worked in organizations or independently mostly on gender, sexuality, health, human rights, and women’s rights. They all had worked on or studied disability at least minimally. About 60% of the participants were disabled and 80% were women. The course was taught by 5 women and 1 man, and all identified as disabled except one; they all are part of women’s, disability and sexual rights movements.
For the participants that already worked on disability issues and/or were disabled themselves, the focus was less on awareness building and more on developing critical analysis and advocacy skills related to sexual rights. The training in fact helped to build the disability movement by increasing capacity for advancing sexual rights and by creating a network among people within the movement concerned with sexual rights. Many of the disabled participants had rarely had opportunities to talk about sexuality.The participants within women’s, human rights and sexual rights and health organizations developed their awareness of disabled people’s sexual rights issues and tools for discussing these issues with their colleagues and constituents. The women’s movement was an important theme throughout the course, which focused on the intersections of gender with disability and sexuality and on the experiences and rights of women with disabilities.
The participants were not all NGO representatives, and included in addition, artists, a filmmaker, students,volunteers, and government workers. This helped the group to think about initiatives that go beyond single organizations, and enabled them to see how individuals could work together across various fields and institutions to build movements.
Project Activities and Outputs
The major activity of this project was The Disability, Sexuality and Rights Online Training (DSRT) on disability and sexuality for disabled and able bodied women’s rights activists and others working in development, health and rights around the world. The training was taught by disabled women working in the fields of disabled people’s rights and sexuality. Invitations were extended to women from the AWID Forum Disabled Women’s Caucus to participate in developing and conducting the training. The core faculty was Anita Ghai (India, University of Delhi), Janet Price (UK, Liverpool University), and Ekaete Umoh (Nigeria, Family Centered Initiative for Challenged Persons) with Caroline Earle as the coordinator (USA, CREA). The core faculty members were academics and activists with extensive experience researching disabled women’s experiences in the global south and advocating for their human rights,including sexual rights.
The course was conducted entirely online in English with presentations, reading, discussion, research, activities and a final project. The participants’ workload was about 5-7 hours per week with assignments that they could complete at their convenience. Participants were also able to chat in real time when possible.
The organizers were pleased with the number and quality of the applications and with their diversity; 142 were received from people all over the world. There seems to be strong demand for such a training; many of the applicants said that they have been searching for a course like this for a long time. In addition to the intersection of issues usually kept separate, many of the applicants mentioned that they were attracted to the course because of its global south and human rights focuses. Interest has been so great that the program has been slightly altered to accept two groups of applicants and to tailor the learning to their specific needs. One group of 20 will be part of the Disability, Sexuality and Rights Online Training and another group of 15-20 will be part of a Disability, Sexuality and Rights (Advanced) Seminar, which will be an independent study group using the online training resources.
Participants reported that during the course they:
- Developed confidence talking about disability and about sexuality.
- Learned a lot about the intersections of disability, sexuality and rights.
- Gained the opportunity to read, review, reflect and analyze.
- Developed networks for future work.
- Developed critical analysis and advocacy skills.
- Gained a wealth of resources to reference in future work.
The great interest in this project from the outset coupled with a successful first training, demonstrated that such a project is both valuable and necessary in women’s rights work. With concrete results and a fully formed project, the organizers feel confident that they will be able to apply for additional funding for more trainings and other work that is related to disability, sexuality and rights.