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One in three women will experience violence in their lifetimes


On 25 November, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Handicap International is drawing attention to the fact that more than one in three women will experience violence in their lifetimes. Women with disabilities are at even greater risk. For 25 years, the organisation has worked in many countries to prevent such acts of violence and to provide medical and psychological assistance to victims.

© W. Huyghe / Handicap International

Thirty-five percent  of women worldwide are exposed to physical or sexual violence at the hands of an intimate partner or another person. Violence against women is a serious human rights violation. Factors associated with this violence include low education, attitudes accepting of violence and gender inequality, beliefs and local traditions. It leads to health problems, psychological trauma and high social and economic costs.

Double discrimination against women with disabilities

Women with disabilities are at a higher risk of violence, and women with mental disabilities are particularly vulnerable. “Women with disabilities suffer from double discrimination,” explains Muriel Mac Seing, who has worked on gender issues at Handicap International. “They do not always have the right to manage their own sexual and reproductive lives - the right to a responsible, satisfying sex life and to decide when they have children, in total freedom - due to social and cultural stereotypes. Often close to or dependent on adults around them, they are also at greater risk of sexual violence, which makes them highly vulnerable.” Victims of violence, these women find it harder to ask for help - particularly for fear of reprisal – and are often excluded and isolated as a result.  

Raising awareness and assisting victims

For 25 years, Handicap International has worked in several countries  to raise women’s awareness of the risk of violence, to inform them of their rights, and to provide medical, psychological and legal support adapted to victims. Handicap International also works with governments to strengthen measures to protect the rights of women, including by supporting the ratification of international conventions.

Our work in aid of women

  • In Mali, a country racked by instability since 2012, Handicap International’s violence-prevention actions include awareness-raising campaigns targeted at women from local communities. The organisation also case-manages victims through discussion and self-help groups and individual therapy sessions.
  • In northwest Kenya, a region ravaged by ethnic conflict, Handicap International takes action on armed violence and gender-based violence and trains peace ambassadors to talk to communities about the risks of violence and to inform them of their rights. Christine, 30, is from this region of Kenya: “I talk mainly to very young women, some already mothers at thirteen. I remind them how important it is to finish school and not to have children too early. No, domestic violence is not normal in a couple, nor is not knowing if your husband is sleeping around. Men are more reluctant and ask me what my problem is. But I don’t care: I want women to know their rights!”  
  • Handicap International’s Ubuntu Care project in Rwanda, Burundi and Kenya combats sexual violence against children, particularly children with disabilities, who are three to four times more at risk of sexual violence than other children. The organisation trains young people to raise peer awareness of the risks of sexual violence.
  • Lastly, since the genocide that torn Rwanda apart in 1994, Handicap International’s project has provided psychological support to victims of physical and sexual violence, such as by setting up groups where people can talk and exchange views.
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