We're supporting disabled women and girls in India to access wheelchairs and new opportunities.

One in five women live with a disability, according to the WHO. The barriers to inclusion and participation are doubled – they face gender-based discrimination as well as stigma around disability.

In fact, disabled girls are less likely to access education than their male peers. Disabled women are at greater risk of poverty. They face greater discrimination as they try to access work or healthcare. They are at increased risk of violence, abuse and exploitation.

We have seen the impact of this discrimination in our work. Women and girls are under-represented at the wheelchair services we support – they are simply seen as less important or worthy of receiving a wheelchair. They are hidden away.

Our team identified a need to create wheelchair provision and training programmes that are specifically designed to reach women and girls. This year we launched our first programme in India that targets this work.

We will start out by ensuring that 125 women and girls with disabilities receive appropriate wheelchairs by trained clinicians. The programme will be delivered in the Chamarajanagar district, a rural part of South India. These wheelchairs will enable women like Chennaji to have mobility, while promoting health and allowing greater participation in families and communities.

“Motivation Wheelchair is not only going to enhance my mobility but also will make me functional and financially independent member of the family” - Chennaji, India

We will also provide training specifically to parents and caregivers of girls with cerebral palsy or complex disabilities. This will help them understand how best to manage their daughters' overall health and wellbeing in the home. For parents of girls like Aarogya Selvi, the combination of a wheelchair and training means greater opportunity.

As her mother, Lurdhu Mary explains: “With her growing age, it is getting very difficult to carry her and to take her to social events, playground and even to hospital for check ups. This is affecting the social life of the whole family”.  The family hopes that a new wheelchair will allow Aarogya Selvi to attend school.

Yamuna explains how the training has supported her to care for her son, Aryan.

Long-term change can only happen through partnerships and wider behaviour change, so we will also work with government officials from the Health and Social Welfare Department to ensure better understanding of the need for appropriate wheelchair provision for girls and women.

We’re also working with a group of female community-based rehabilitation workers at our partner, Margadarshi, to build their professional development and ensure better follow-up with female wheelchair users.

"This project provided me a great insight about the issues the women and girls face because of the mobility disability... we feel better equipped to talk about the issues." - Lakshmi, India

Our goal is to improve the quality of life of girls with disability in this region of India, then use our learning to develop more gender-based programmes. Through targeted outreach, appropriate wheelchair provision and partnerships we hope to build a more equal world for all disabled people, whatever their gender.