Violence and abuse against women with disabilities in Malawi
Women with disabilities are more likely to be subjected to violations of human rights than women without disabilities. A qualitative study conducted in Malawi give information about circumstances and situations that create increased risk for violence and abuse of women, as well as the consequences of such abuse.
The research project is a study of the nature of abuse, violence and neglect against women with disabilities in Malawi. The childhood as well as the present situation of 23 women with disabilities in Blantyre district is described.
Data was collected in two ways:
a) Through in-depth individual interviews with 19 women with visual-, mental- or physical disability, as well as women with albinism.
b) Through a focus group discussion with four women with hearing impairment.
Most of the informants reported that during childhood they were treated like the other children in the family. However, education was difficult. The schools and the school material were not adjusted to their needs. The informants stressed the need of more consideration in regards to their special needs in this relation and wanted the society to make education for women with disabilities a priority area. Many informants felt that men in the society took advantage of their vulnerable situation and promised to marry them. When the woman got pregnant, the man disappeared and left her to be a single mother. Many of the women regarded this as sexual abuse.
The study was arranged as collaboration between SINTEF Health research, Norway, Norwegian Federation of Organisations of Disabled People (FFO), Federation of Disability Organisations in Malawi (FEDOMA) and Disabled Women in Development in Malawi (DIWODE). The Atlas Alliance and the Norwegian Department for Foreign Affairs have given economical support to the study.
Maria, Sigere and Betty at DIWODE, Disabled Women in Development.
Using the results
Much indicates that violence and abuse is hidden, and that there is a lot of stigma and shame connected to sexuality and disability. This results in the theme not being up for public debate. DPOs in the region has, however, in the past few years started the process of putting issues of violence, abuse and sexuality on the agenda. During this process our collaborating partners; FEDOMA and DIWODE, need all the assistance they can get. They especially need support to publicly raise the topic of how women with disabilities are particularly exposed to violence and abuse.
The results of this study will be presented to relevant DPOs in Malawi, and possibly also other countries in the region through the network of Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD). The whole range of DPOs in Malawi will be brought into the discussion and dialogue regarding follow-up of the results of the study. The report will be sent to relevant authorities and decision-makers. Presentation of the findings will contribute to awareness-raising in relation to gender differences on the topic of violence and abuse against people with disabilities, as well as stimulate openness, discussions and future initiatives, on the local, regional and national level.
Download the SINTEF Report A576:
Violence and abuse against women with disabilities in Malawi. (PDF 309KB)
Order the report from SINTEF