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Voices of the Marginalised

A girl in class reading braille.


Voices of the Marginalised is a qualitative research project to share the experiences and perspectives of people with disabilities and older people living in developing countries, using a community-based participatory approach. The stories shared highlight not only the stigma and discrimination people with disabilities are often faced with, but also their challenges in claiming their rights, finding employment, and accessing health care and other public services.

The pilot was first conducted in Bangladesh with the results published in 2015, while the second phase of the study is currently being undertaken in Tanzania. The results will be available in spring 2016.

The Voices of the Marginalised consortium is a collaboration between Sightsavers, HelpAge International and ADD International. Supporting partners during the pilot in Bangladesh were Alzheimer’s Disease International and the Institute of Development Studies. In Tanzania, the supporting partner is Ifakara Health Institute, which is currently leading the research.

We can also make change report documents:

January update (2016)
Summary (2015)
Full report (2015)
Briefing (2013)

Sightsavers clip from Work With Us, produced by Real Time as part of Participate: Knowledge from the margins for post-2015

Key findings from Voices of the Marginalised:

Work and dignity are rare

I am living by borrowing from other people and relatives here and there. I am just surviving. I only get the disability allowance.

– Imran, aged approximately 45


People with disabilities and older people are commonly viewed as a burden on the household. Often they are abandoned and many move to urban areas to beg.

Public services are inaccessible

Because she was disabled and poor, she couldn’t study… Generally in our country, girls are neglected. If they are disabled there is no end to their suffering.

The twin effects of discrimination and poverty mean older people and those with disabilities are frequently unable to access public services, in particular health care and education. Girls with disabilities find it particularly difficult to access education and when they do, they can face the additional problem of bullying and discrimination.

Bullying and violence are everyday experiences

Children used to tease and beat my granddaughter. She couldn’t concentrate on the classwork for long.

– Grandmother of 13-year-old Abida


Discrimination, intimidation, harassment and violence can be everyday experiences for some people with disabilities and older people – even in their home life. Ignorance about disability is common – it is often seen as the result of evil spirits or sin, or considered to be contagious. Women and children with disabilities can be at greater risk from violence.

What can be done?

To address these common and shocking inequalities, policymakers must:

  • ratify and implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and support the elaboration of a UN convention on the rights of older people.
  • ensure that age and disability are treated as cross-cutting themes in all post-2015 development goals and support improved data gathering and analysis mechanisms.
  • promote the full and equal participation of older people and people with disabilities in social and political life.

What can you do?


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