Mama Cash grantee Malawi Human Rights for Women and Girls with Disabilities reflects on the ingredients for impact
Mama Cash’s grantee partners are doing amazing work for women, girls, and trans people in their communities and around the world. In an eleven part series, we will share some of these inspiring stories of change. This is the story of Malawi Human Rights for Women and Girls with Disabilities.
Malawi Human Rights for Women and Girls with Disabilities (MHRWD) was founded in 2008 to promote the rights of women and girls with disabilities. MHRWD focuses on defending the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls with disabilities and countering violence. It also provides literacy and other capacity building training for women and girls, including economic empowerment programmes. MHRWD works primarily in rural communities in six districts of Malawi. The group received its first grant from Mama Cash in 2010.
MHRWD was founded by women activists with disabilities who knew from experience that women and girls with disabilities in Malawi were missing out on opportunities to participate in public life, as well as to enjoy sexual and reproductive choices. Many parents and communities believe it’s not worth sending girls with disabilities to school, and many women and girls with disabilities live with low or no literacy. As a result, they are often unable to find jobs and gain economic independence. Meanwhile, they struggle with the perception that women with disabilities are not sexual beings and should not engage in relationships. If girls and women with disabilities marry, husbands often use their disability—and the economic and other forms of dependence connected to it—as an excuse for abuse. Young women with disabilities are rarely allowed to choose their own partner or to have children, let alone receive appropriate reproductive health care and assistance. They face discrimination and prejudice by health care workers, among others, who believe they cannot be ‘fit mothers’. In this way, women and girls with disabilities often feel trapped in a vicious circle of inability, with few instruments to break the cycle.