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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

17 September 2020

Excellencies, distinguished participants, 

Ladies and gentlemen, 

It is indeed my pleasure to join you in the launch ceremony of the “Call to Action: Enabling Sisters with Disabilities to Join in Shaping the Future We Want”. 

In Asia and the Pacific, around 350 million women and girls live with disability - more than half of the region’s 690 million persons with disabilities. Women and girls with disabilities face multiple forms of discrimination due to their gender and disability. These multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination pose a challenge to the inclusion and meaningful participation of women and girls with disabilities in society. 

Compared to men without disabilities, women with disabilities are: 

  • Three times more likely to be illiterate, 
  • Two times less likely to use the Internet, 
  • Three times more likely to have unmet needs for health care, and 
  • Two times less likely to be employed. 

ESCAP research shows that there is only one parliamentarian who is a woman with disability out of every 1000 parliamentarians in Asia and the Pacific. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is further exacerbating these existing disadvantages and inequalities, and has exposed women and girls with disabilities to increased risks that may adversely impact their health and well-being.

Distinguished Ladies and gentlemen, 

Urgent action is therefore required, to protect the rights of women and girls with disabilities. 

The “Call to Action: Enabling Sisters with Disabilities to Join the Shaping the Future We Want” comes at a critical moment this time, as the international community commemorates the 75th anniversary of the United Nations and the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. 

I therefore wish to thank the China Disabled Persons’ Federation (CDPF) and especially Madam Zhang Haidi for her leadership in championing the Call to Action. ESCAP and CDPF have been close partners in promoting disability rights and disability-inclusive development in Asia and the Pacific for the past three decades, and we look forward to deepening our collaboration in the years ahead. 

Disability inclusion is a priority area through which ESCAP is supporting member States in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to ensure no one is left behind. Our member States have adopted the Incheon Strategy to “Make the Right Real” for Persons with Disabilities in Asia and the Pacific, which has a specific goal on gender equality, to guide the efforts in supporting women and girls with disabilities. 

Together with our sister agencies, especially UN Women and UNFPA, ESCAP is pleased to support this important initiative to empower women and girls with disabilities, and to recognize their potential and contributions to inclusive and sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific. 

Thank you very much.

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