World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

EDAN women's conference in Johannesburg

An EDAN conference on "violence against women and children with disabilities" was held from 27 February to 2 March 2013 in Johannesburg.

08 March 2013


Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network (EDAN) women's conference
27 February to 2 March 2013, Johannesburg, South Africa

We the participants representing women with disabilities, parents of children with disabilities, networks working on violence against women with disabilities, consultants and lecturers working in this particular field, met at Willow Park Conference Centre, Johannesburg, South Africa from 27 February to 2 March 2013 to deliberate on violence against women and children with disabilities in the context of the WCC 10th General Assembly theme of God of Life, lead us to Justice and Peace. With the aim of facilitating the grassroots voices of women with disabilities to make their contribution towards educating and empowering women to stand against all forms of discrimination and become agents for social change through involvement in advocacy and the healing of memories, entrepreneurship, gender, HIV/AIDS poverty and care giving.

Having realized that violence is a universal problem and moved by the concern about the vulnerability of women and children with disabilities as targets of extreme violence in the form of sexual, emotional, psychological, physical abuse and spiritual deprivation in peaceful situations and also in situations of armed conflict;

Noting that the church has neglected its prophetic voice and has remained silent on the issue of violence and sexual abuse of women and children with disabilities;

Noting that there have been cultural practices and beliefs that have exposed the women and children with disabilities to sexual abuse;

Noting that ignorance of the various communities regarding women and children with disabilities has led to their marginalization and lack of protection;

Noting that there hasn’t been reliable data on the victims;

Noting that there has been an invisibility of the victims and absence of safe space to receive support and noting that they have failed to get a voice to speak for themselves;

We state that the issue of violence against women and children with disabilities should be a global priority. Concrete and immediate action needs to be taken by the WCC, Ecumenical partners, United Nations Agencies, International Non-governmental organizations, national bodies and local churches to eliminate this unacceptable occurrence. Towards this, we recommend the following;

1. Reinforce research and get reliable statistics using the methodology of intersectionality (gender, race, class, economic status and ability) in collecting data in regards to violence.

2. EDAN together with the international communities, regional and national actors should advocate for concrete actions to get reparations for the victims, seek justice, restore dignity and promote human security.

3. Churches are called to accountability, solidarity and love through formation of covenants of support to women and children with disabilities.

4. Develop strong advocacy and capacity building strategies to bring change in the communities and churches to be a church of compassion and inclusion.

5. Enhance the Masculinity trainings that are being carried out by Ecumenical HIV/AIDs Initiative in Africa (EHAIA) to reach a wider audience that targets boys and men.

The conference gathered around 24 international participants, including women with disabilities from Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Burundi, Kenya, South Africa, Togo and the United Sates.

The event was hosted by an emergency shelter “The Haven” in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa which provides protection to victims of domestic violence and abuse.