Hesperian Health Guides
Chapter 9: Women with Disabilities
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About 1 out of every 10 women has a disability that affects daily living. She may have difficulties with walking, lifting, seeing, hearing or using her mind. Yet many of these women are never seen or heard. They are often hidden away and do not take part in community activities because they are thought of as less useful and of less value than women without disabilities.
What causes disability?
Local customs and beliefs often give people false ideas about disability. For example, people may think a woman has a disability because she did something bad in a former life and is now being punished. Or they may think her disability is ‘catching’ (contagious), so they are afraid to be around her. Disabilities are not caused by anything a person does wrong. In poor countries, many disabilities are caused by poverty, accidents, and by wars. For example:
- If a mother does not get enough to eat when she is pregnant, her child may be born with a disability (birth defect).
- If a baby or young child does not get enough good food to eat she or he may become blind or mentally slow.
- Poor sanitation and crowded living conditions, together with poor food and a lack of basic health services and vaccinations, can lead to many disabilities.
- In today’s wars, more women and children are killed or disabled than are soldiers or other men.
But even if these reasons for disability are eliminated, there will always be persons with disabilities—it is a natural part of life.