Changing the pace of change: Disability inclusion in development responses to sexual violence for women with disabilities through arts & humanities

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds


The proposed network will tackle one of the most significant global challenges facing people with disabilities by connecting interdisciplinary researchers with communities and external partners allowing the network to reconceptualize the problem and its solutions. We will promote a diversity of voices in order to provoke, disrupt and challenge received thinking and create opportunities for meaningful innovation in arts and humanities methods to respond to sexual and domestic violence against women with disabilities.

Sexual and domestic violence disproportionately affect cis and trans women with disabilities. It inhibits their participation in society, creating shame, stigma and fear. It creates barriers to their ability to live in good health and to equitably access health services.

Furthermore, health and social care staff attitudes can mean women with disabilities are not believed when reporting sexual or domestic violence. Their testimonies can be questioned, or they are silenced by the assumption women with disabilities are not sexually active and discussion of topics around sexual health and wellbeing are shut down - effectively censoring their ability to report violence.

At development policy and service commissioning levels, change is slow and public health interventions and sexual & reproductive health services are often commissioned without considering the needs of women with disabilities. Appeals for change have been repeatedly made by key global organizations like WHO but they do not achieve the urgent change needed to address this significant health inequality. It is becoming increasingly important to shift the conversation, reimagine the problem and reconceptualize the solutions.

The proposed network will do exactly this. It will bring together representatives of academia, non-governmental and multilateral organisations, organisations of persons with disabilities and advocates. Each individual will bring a different perspective and lived experience. The network will explore innovative responses to improve disability inclusion through arts and humanities methods and interventions.

The network will meet once face-to-face to agree how to work together inclusively, establishing communication preferences and safe conduct. We will decide how we will conduct our scoping review of evidence and the types of facilitators we would like to join our meetings. We will identify a network of stakeholders who we will open discussion with through our social media strategy.

We will then meet online, with each meeting facilitated by someone whose expertise is relevant to the Network. Facilitators will come from a variety of backgrounds including community practitioners, using arts and humanities with women with disabilities, representatives of organisations of persons with disabilities addressing stigma and taboos in healthcare staff and representatives of multilateral organisations negotiating political commitment to change at an international level, reflecting on how arts and humanities methods may be useful to change the pace of change within their messaging.

The Network will then reflect on the practical and theoretical challenges each presenters' work poses, identifying any research questions for future grant applications. We will communicate progress of the network through social media and our network website.

In the remaining project time we will discuss the findings of our scoping review (creating Article 1), write up our reflections on the theoretical challenges of disability inclusion in SRH through arts and humanities methods (for Article 2). We will create our Guidance and Toolkit and plan our webinar. The webinar will share the learning of the network with a wide audience and open up debate with stakeholders on this topic. We will also agree the next steps of the network to further develop our collaboration.


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