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 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.
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.
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 (‘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.