Issue 4, August 1993

Women With Disabilities Australia began in 1985 as a women’s group known as the ‘Women’s Network’, within Disabled Peoples’ International (Australia). The Network grew and evolved to form Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA). Copyright WWDA 1993.

In This Edition

From the Women’s Network Convenor

International News

Australian News

Wanted: Talented Women With Disabilities

Invisible Women

Articles and Books of Interest


From Rae Hurrell – Women’s Network Convenor

It seems a very long time since our last newsletter when we were hopeful that we would receive funding from the Office of Status of Women, through the National Agenda Grants. We have gone through a bleak period after we found our application was unsuccessful. With all the good will in the world and with the dedication of so many women, without funding we are unable to produce and distribute our newsletter or hold teleconferences with our state representatives. However, we are now in a more optimistic mood. DPI(A) is funding the distribution of this newsletter and has assured us of further assistance from the national office with clerical support and a part time project officer. We thank DPI(A) for this support look forward to this continuing in the future.

In late November, early December the Asia/Pacific Region of DPI is holding their regional council meeting and Leadership Training Seminar in Daka, Bangladesh. During this seminar, women of the Asia/pacific Region will meet. If anyone is interested in attending, contact me or the DPI(A) in Canberra.

DPI Head Office in Canada have contacted us about the participation of our Network in the World Assembly in Sydney in 1994. It will be a great opportunity to meet with DPI’s Women’s Committee and discuss issues with women from all around the world. I hope that as many women from the Network as possible will be able to be in Sydney for this very special event.

We hope that with DPI(A)’s continued backing the Women’s Network will move from strength to strength and become a very influential voice in the Disability Rights Movement within Australia and beyond.

Until next time
Yours in solidarity
Rae Hurrell

International News

The Fourth United Nations Conference on Women: Action for Equality, Development and Peace
The Fourth United Nations Conference on Women will be held in Beijing from 4-15 September 1995. Part of the UN’s strategy to improve the status of women, the conference marks the 10th anniversary of the Third Women’s Conference held in Nairobi concluding the International Decade of Women.

The purpose of the Conference is to report on the implementation of the 1985 Nairobi’s Forward Looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women and to prepare a program of action to the year 2000. The Office of the Status of Women (OSW) is preparing an options paper for Australia’s participation. A national Committee is to be established to plan for the conference which will include state and territory involvement as well as non-government organisations (NGOs).

Interested NGOs and individuals will be able to attend the NGO Forum which will be held at the same time as the World Conference. Individuals wishing to attend the forum will need to be part of, or endorsed by, an Organisation involved in activities related to the World Conference. NGOs which have taken part in preparations for 1995 will be able to apply for observer status at the World Conference through the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, based in Bangkok.

How Far Have Women Progressed in the Past Twenty Years?

Despite many gains made by women over the past 20 years the following facts still, make grim reading:

  • women are the majority of the world’s refugees and in some places may comprise as much as 75% of the refugee population;
  • women comprise half the world’s people; do two thirds of the world’s work; receive one-tenth of the world’s income; and own only one-hundredth of the world’s property;
  • women are the sole breadwinners in one-quarter to one-third of the families in the world; women are predominantly the agriculturalists of the world. They produce 80% of the food in Africa; 60% of the food in Asia; and 40% of the food in Latin America. Yet most agricultural advisers are men who talk to other men.
  • prostitution is Thailand’s second largest source of foreign exchange. It is officially illegal, yet vigorously promoted by some sectors of the community.
  • women form 40% of the wage labour force in several Asian countries, yet their wages are only half to two-thirds those of men with similar qualifications.
  • if household work were given economic value, it would add approximately one-third to the world’s GNP. women in the labour market average 91.3 hours per week; 55.9 in domestic work and 35.4 in paid employment.

International Day of Disabled Persons

In October 1992, the United Nations declared 3 December as the International Day of Disabled Persons. It is to be an ongoing event. Women’s Network members should lobby disability organisations,. local councils and state governments about how they intend to observe this day.

Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons 1993-2002

The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) has proclaimed the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons 1993-2002. While recognising that the UN Decade of Disabled Persons (1983-1992) had increased awareness of disability issues and had generated progress in preventing disability and rehabilitation, this progress had been uneven particularly in developing and least developed countries. it is estimated that there are approximately 300 million people with disabilities in this region who constitute an important disadvantaged social group and a seriously neglected human resource base.

World Assembly of Disabled Persons International Sydney 1994

The World Assembly of DPI will be held in Sydney in 1994 based on the theme of human rights. The assembly will focus on social, cultural and economic rights, sustainable development, human rights violations against people with sensory, mental and physical disabilities, disability and environment. There will be opportunities to deliver papers on issues relating to women with disabilities. The coordinator of the Assembly is Jean Skuse who coordinated the 1991 World Council of Churches. For further information contact: DPI(A) Canberra office.

Australian News

Women and Equality Before the Law
The Australian Law Reform Commission is conducting an inquiry into whether the law or the way it operates is unfair to women. The aim is to remove those unfair laws or practices and ensure the full equality of women before the law. Particular areas of concern are:

  • Equality of women in the making of laws and in the legal process
  • Legal protection of equality
  • Participation in political and public life
  • Equality in relationships
  • Equal treatment in employment
  • Equal treatment in economic life
  • Women’s health
  • Education
  • Culture, sport and leisure

The Commission, chaired by Justice Elizabeth Evatt, will be conducting public hearings and accepting submissions from the public. You can submit a letter, fax, audio or video cassette. For further information or to speak at the public hearings. Contact: The Australian Law Reform Commission GPO Box 3708 Sydney NSW 2001.

CAPOW National Women’s Conference Canberra 1993
CAPOW stands for Coalition of Australian Participating Organisations of Women. It is a coalition of national women’s organisations formed to facilitate networking among non government women’s groups. There is no membership of CAPOW; organisations participate by getting involved in CAPOW’s activities.

CAPOW is holding a national women’s conference at the Australian National University, Canberra ACT from 26th-28th November 1993. The conference will focus on what are the major issues concerning women and ways of communicating those issues, nationally and internationally. It will also include a session on ways of getting women to the UN Beijing Conference in 1995. For further information contact: Ingrid Fitzgerald, Administrative Officer, CAPOW c/- O’Connor Post Office ACT 2601, Ph: (06) 239 7871; Fax: (06) 247 7446.

Wanted: Talented Women With Disabilities

Register of Women
If you are interested in participating on a board or committee or have special expertise in a particular area, you may be interested in the Register of Women. The Register is maintained by the Office of the Status of Women (OSW) which is seeking equal representation of men and women on government boards. The Register holds information on qualifications, work experience and interests of women used by Commonwealth Ministers and Departments in choosing possible appointees for Government Boards, committees and authorities. For further information contact:

Register of Women
Office of the Status of Women
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet 3-5 National Circuit
Barton ACT 2600 Ph: (06) 271 5939

Australian Computer Society
The Australian Computer Society is a professional organisation for those in the computing and information technology industry. The Women in Technology Committee, part of the Community Affairs Board of the Australian Computer Society aims to bring issues of women in technology to a broader audience. If you wish to participate in the committee, contact:

Tom Worthington
Community Affairs Board
Australian Computer Society Inc. GPO Box 446
Canberra ACT 2601
Ph:(06) 285 6209 FX: (06) 249 6419

Victorian Network of Women With Disabilities
The Victorian Women with Disabilities Network has been formed and has already been active in seeking funding for special projects particularly on violence and women with disability. Contact Margaret Cooper or Natalie Tomas P.O. Box 266 Footscray Vic 3011 ph: (03) 689 3044 fax: (03) 689 1679.

Invisible Women

Women With Disabilities from Non-English Speaking Backgrounds Living in Australia
A consultancy project based on the experiences of women with disabilities from a non-English speaking background (NESB), was carried out for the National Women’s Consultative Council (NWCC). It was also a study of the attitudes towards women with disabilities by other women, non-disabled and from non English , speaking backgrounds who participated in the consultancy. Lina Pane conducted the project and is herself disabled and from a NESB.

The report made the following findings:

  • more research and writing was needed on the experience of being a woman with a disability and other related issues;
  • health professional and service providers often lacked a basic understanding of the relationship between disability and culture and needed to be educated in this area;
  • when talking and writing about the experience of disability, the person should be referred to first, not the disability;
  • feminist organisations should accept women with disabilities and should empower NESB women to speak for themselves.

Current literature, Ms Pane pointed out, particularly feminist writing or papers written about women by non-disabled women had excluded women with disabilities. Whereas working class and middle class women, single and married women, women of different sexual identity, different ages or colours were often mentioned, women with disabilities were seldom referred to and thereby rendered invisible.

The literature suggested that neither the disability movement nor the feminist movement had fully addressed the issues of women with disabilities. In the disability movement, women faced sexism and in the feminist movement disability- based concerns were neither understood nor appreciated.

Ms Pane concludes:
“Disability has become the commonality of all people with disabilities, without the recognition of differences such as NESB, class, gender, sexuality etc. People with disabilities are also seen as separate – not as part of the human race simply because disability is affected by the degree and stigma of discrimination imposed on individuals by society. In other words, society makes disability more of a handicap than it actually is for the person with a disability.”

Articles and Books of Interest

Chenoweth Lesley “Invisible Acts: Violence Against Women With Disabilities” Australian Disability Review, 2-1993.
Adopting a feminist critique of disability, this paper analyses violence against women with disabilities arguing because of their double disadvantage of gender and disability, they are rendered invisible in both disability and women’s movements. This invisibility exacerbates the risk of all types of abuse as well as having their needs unrecognised by existing services for other victims of abuse and violence.

Hahn, Harlan: “Can Disability Be Beautiful?” Social Policy, Winter 1988.

Keith, Lois: “Who Cares Wins? Women, Caring and Disability” Disability, Handicap and Society, Vol. 7, No. 2, 1992.
This article examines the debate about the rights and needs of carers versus the rights and needs of those being cared for from the point of view of a disabled feminist, wife, mother and ‘caree’ occasionally in need of personal care. Keith argues that the ‘cared for’ are usually ignored, depersonalised or dehumanised in the (feminist) debate to bolster the case for the (female) carer, particularly as slave to demands of the family and/or cared for.

Kettl , Paul, M.D. et al “Female Sexuality After Spinal Cord Injury” Sexuality and Disability, Vol. 9, No. 4, 1991.

King, Ynestra:“The Other Body – Reflections On Difference, Disability and Identity Politics” Ms. March/April 1993.
A personal impassioned, feminist perspective of discrimination and prejudice faced by women with disabilities in a society obsessed with appearance and the pursuit of the perfect body.

Kroll, Ken and Levy Klein, Erica: “Enabling Romance – A Guide to Love, Sex and Relationships for the Disabled (And The People Who Care About Them)” Harmony Books, New York 1992.
An explicitly illustrated guide to romantic and sexual relationships based on personal experiences of people with a wide range of disabilities, including hearing and vision impairments, spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, neuro-muscular disorders and amputation. Written by a married couple, the husband of which is himself disabled with dystonia, Enabling Romance contains unique insights into overcoming sexual stereotypes, building self-esteem and practical advice on family planning and establishing intimacy when dependent on care-givers. Very readable and highly recommended.

Lloyd, M.:“Does She Boil Eggs? Towards A Feminist Model of Disability”, Disability, Handicap and Society Vol. 7 (3) pp. 207-221,.1992.

Saxton, Marsha et al: “The Right To Bear Young” The Disability Rag ReSource, May/June 1993.
A detailed examination of the issues surrounding the rights of severely physically disabled people to have and raise children. The Earl family from Michigan USA sought to have state assistance in the physical care of their new born child and brought upon themselves the wrath of the bureaucracy and a consequent court case. A landmark civil rights case with testimonies from the family and prominent disability activists.

Waxman, Barbara Faye: “Hatred: The Unacknowledged Dimension in Violence Against Disabled People”, Sexuality and Disability, Vol. 9, No. 3, 1991.
An examination of the cultural ideology about disability leading to violence and sexual crimes against people with disabilities. Asserting a disability rights perspective, the writer focuses on the socio-political model of disability providing greater insight into why these crimes occur.

Womendez, Chris and. Schneiderman, Karen: “Escaping From Abuse: Unique Issues for Women with Disabilities”, Sexuality and Disability, Vol. 9, No. -D, 1991.
An overview of the issues and problems facing women with disabilities who have been battered and abused including accessibility, self-protection and shelters available, psychological problems arising from abuse and prevention strategies.