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close this bookWhere Women Have No Doctor - A Health Guide for Women (Hesperian Foundation, 1997, 600 p.)
close this folderChapter 9: Women with Disabilities
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In this chapter we use the word ‘women with disabilities’ rather than ‘disabled women.’ We do this to remind people that although a disability can prevent a woman from doing certain things, in other ways she is just like other women. She is a woman first.

No matter what causes a woman’s disability, she can be just as productive as a woman without a disability. She just needs the opportunity to develop her skills to their fullest.

For more complete information on health care and disabilities, see the Hesperian Foundation book, Disabled Village Children. For information about ordering, see the last page of this book.


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.

1 out of every 10 women has a disability that affects daily living.


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.

But disabilities are not caused by anything a person does wrong. In poor countries, many disabilities are caused by poverty, and sometimes by wars, which few people can control. 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.