The institutionalization and segregation of people with disabilities is one of the great human rights challenges of our time. Women and girls with disabilities are at especially great risk of social and economic exclusion because of both their gender and their disability. Between discriminatory laws and practices, as well as stigmatizing attitudes and beliefs, there is little to prevent the institutionalization of people with disabilities. Women and girls who live in segregated residences become invisible—forgotten—tucked away in institutions or hidden at home by their families, never having an opportunity to participate in life.
Even more, women with disabilities around the world face significant challenges in attaining adequate housing, health, education, vocational training, and employment.
In 2013, Keystone Human Services (KHS) made a commitment to support women and girls with disabilities to empower themselves. Through the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), we have developed a Commitment to Action—Disabilities: Social and Financial Inclusion for Women and Girls. Over the next three years, we will work to support women and girls with disabilities in the United States and Eastern Europe to empower themselves and improve their social and financial inclusion.
Our Commitment encompasses two complementary goals. First, we will support girls and women living the United States and the Republic of Moldova to leave state institutions or prevent them from ever entering them so they can live and thrive in the community with the support of family, education, employment, support teams, and the community at large.
Second, we will develop an inclusive, family-oriented workforce model to promote the full and equal human rights of women with disabilities and women who are caregivers of children with disabilities. Women will gain improved access to employment, education, and participation in vocational training. Ultimately, this workforce model will reduce obstacles to labor inclusion and promote women’s equal rights to full employment and fair pay.
Within the Republic of Moldova, we have implemented a transitional employment program, as well as supportive employment and training in basic business skills and mentoring for women.
In the United States, several women have moved out of state institutions and moved into community settings in Connecticut, and KHS has contracted with the Department of Developmental Services to provide services to these women in their own communities.
As women move out of state institutions and join the community, KHS has developed a training program for staff at the institutions to educate them on developing person-centered plans, re-evaluating the individual’s needs, and the level of quality care to ensure continuity and the individual’s security and comfort before, during, and after they transition to life in the community.
We’re very excited about our Commitment to Action. Keystone has been a part of CGI since 2007, and CGI has played a large part in bringing the role of disabilities in global health to the forefront. In the year since we made our Commitment, we have seen the beginnings of a change in society’s perception of women with disabilities. Just as importantly, women with disabilities themselves have increased their self-esteem and empowerment. We are working hard to continue our work to support the rights of women with disabilities and women caregivers of children with disabilities.