ISLAMABAD: UN Women Pakistan, a United Nations organization dedicated to gender equality and empowerment of women and Handicap International agreed to work for empowerment of women with disabilities in Pakistan.

The initiative will specifically focus on creating awareness and linkages with relevant institutions, generating access to services and support.

An implementing partner agreement for this initiative ‘Moving from Charity Model to Rights Based Work – Delivering as ONE for Empowerment of Women with Disabilities’ was signed by Jamshed M. Kazi, country Representative UN Women, and Angelina Robinson, Programme Director Handicap International here on Thursday.

World Health Organization estimates that about fifteen percent of Pakistan’s total population, over 30 million people, are living with different types of disabilities. Around 50 % people with disabilities are women, of which 70 percent live in rural areas with no or limited access to essential services.

Funded by the UN Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNPRPD), this two-year joint project will be implemented in close collaboration with International Labour Organization (ILO) and UN Volunteers (UNV) in three districts of Peshawar, Karachi and Islamabad (Federal Capital).

The pilot project will work closely with the Ministry of Human Rights, other government bodies, civil society, industry, corporate/private sector, potential employers, academia, and technical and vocational training institutions.

It will make efforts for increased accessibility of work places to women with disabilities (WWDs) in terms of physical access, capacity building, entrepreneurship opportunities, as well as addressing the behavioral and social barriers and stigmas attached to WWDs that hinder equal opportunities and participation for women with disabilities.

Speaking on the occasion, Jamshed Kazi said that specific needs of women and girls with disabilities have long been ignored, compelling them to live on the margins of society. “We need to make sure they have the right environment in which they are free to exercise their civil and political rights, access basic services and are provided with an opportunity to learn, and subsequently find gainful decent employment,” he said.

While pointing out towards the gaps in legislation and implementation of disability inclusive practices at national, provincial and district level, he stressed the need for clear policies including the obligation to collect disaggregated data in all services, on accessibility, participation and inclusion of persons with disabilities.

“To leave no one behind, the women and girls of Pakistan must be placed at the center of all our efforts, especially those focused on mainstreaming and the wellbeing of women and girls with disabilities.”

Angelina Robinson said, “Understanding the massive needs of excluded populations in Pakistan, including people with disabilities and specially women with disabilities, Handicap International is long aware that change cannot be brought on by just a single organization working in silo, it can only be done collectively.