First anger, then action: why you should sign the Feminist Accessibility Protocol

A few years ago, a group of women got angry, and I was one of them.

We were angry because we couldn’t participate in the 2021 Generation Equality Forum, a major international gender equality conference hosted by UN Women with the governments of France and Mexico.

We couldn’t participate because the platform being used for the virtual  forums wasn’t accessible for most women and girls with disabilities.

Why shouldn’t we be able to take part when we had worked so hard? We were sad and angry. But in my years as a disability advocate and activist, I’ve learned that getting angry needs to be accompanied by getting active – so we got active. We wanted to not only show that this wasn’t good enough, but also create something to guide and advise organisations on how to do better.

The Inclusive Generation Equality Collective

The first thing we did was to organise a shadow event, where a few of us got together to talk about the issue. Led by Women Enabled International, we formed the Inclusive Generation Equality Collective – an informal group of feminists with disabilities. We made lots of interventions – I cannot count the number of meetings that I alone had with the Generation Equality Forum organisers and with the disability advisor they employed.

How the Feminist Accessibility Protocol was born

The next thing we did was to draft the Feminist Accessibility Protocol, a ground-breaking set of commitments that seek to ensure women and girls with disabilities are not excluded in gender equality discussions and decision-making spaces.

The protocol includes 13 disability-related pledges for national governments, feminist civil society organisations, United Nations entities, and other feminist actors to make. These include commitments to make gender equality discussions and decision-making spaces fully accessible to and inclusive of women and girls with disabilities as well as gender minorities with disabilities.

The protocol has guidelines that any agency, organisation or group who wants to organise meetings or conferences need to bear in mind in order to put accessibility measures in place. It includes resources and contact information if assistance is needed in putting together a barrier-free conference, and is relevant for digital and in-person events. It can be used by anybody, not just feminist organisations.

Gertrude Oforiwa Fefoame.

Sign the protocol and hear Getty speak

Sightsavers will be at the Women Deliver Conference in Kigali in July, hosting a session on generation equality and the Feminist Accessibility Protocol. Gertrude will speak at the event: attendees can visit Sightsavers' booth to sign the protocol.

About the conference
Gertrude Oforiwa Fefoame sits at her laptop.

The challenge: take it up!

We’re encouraging UN member states, civil society organisations and UN agencies to sign up to the Feminist Accessibility Protocol and commit to making their events and decision-making spaces inclusive and accessible.

So far, no UN agencies have signed the protocol. 155 signatures have been received from individuals and organisations – but for the protocol to make a difference, we need more. The numbers matter because with greater numbers we can have greater influence. We’re calling on the Commission on the Status of Women to take it up. UN Women, take it up. Other agencies and organisations: take it up and implement it now so we, feminists with disabilities and indeed all persons with disabilities, can participate freely, without barriers; and so that we can gain the knowledge that is being shared, as well as contribute our knowledge and experiences to enhance discussions.

Women without disabilities have a responsibility to recognise women and girls with disabilities and their representative organisations as the same: as women, first and foremost. We need to be around the table for discussions; be part of the beginning – of the sessions, implementation and evaluation at the end of the cycle. We should not be forgotten and should not be looked as special, with our issues left behind and picked up later.

Out of our anger came the determination to act, and out of that determination came the Inclusive Generation Equality Collective and the Feminist Accessibility Protocol. Now we need our collaborators, friends, allies and everyone who champions human rights to get on board and make the protocol the foundation of every event across the women’s movement. Are you with us?

Joy Shu’aibu, Sightsavers’ director of programme operations in Nigeria.

Hear the stories

Six women with lived experience of disabilities explain why they decided to choose their own path and tell a radically different story.

Read their stories


Gertrude (‘Getty’) Oforiwa Fefoame is Sightsavers’ global advocacy manager. She was recently elected as chair of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), making her the first woman from an African country to hold the position.

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