Fighting for the rights of disabled women
Bonnie Brayton talks about the work of the DisAbled Women's Network Canada.
» Most Recent: 23 Apr, 2019
» Website: http://talkingradical.ca/radio/
Uploaded: 3 Jul, 2018
Recording Date: 1 Jul, 2018
Recording Location: Call between Hamilton, ON, and Montreal, QC.
Topical for: 1 Year
Status: Complete, Ready to Air
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Program Title: Fighting for the rights of disabled women
Description: Bonnie Brayton is the executive of the DisAbled Women's Netowrk (or DAWN) Canada, the country's only national advocacy organization focused on the needs and rights of women with disabilities. Scott Neigh interviews her about the issues that disabled women and girls face and about DAWN Canada's work.
Back in 1985, bureaucrats in the federal government dealing with issues related to women and other bureaucrats dealing with issues related to disability realized that while there were multiple advocacy groups hard at work in their respective areas, there were no national groups in Canada focused specifically on disabled women. They consulted with various women's groups and disability groups to identify disabled women who already played leadership roles, and put up the money to bring seventeen of those women together for meetings in Ottawa. Before the meetings were done, the women had decided that a one-time get-together was not enough and they started the ball rolling to found DAWN.
Thirty-three years later, DAWN is still going strong. From the beginning, its mission has been to end discrimination against women and girls with disabilities in Canada, in light of the fact that women with disabilities face among the highest rates of poverty, the highest rates of social and economic exclusion, and the highest rates of violence in Canadian society. Moreover, Brayton estimates that upwards of one-quarter of women in the country have some sort of disability – the official statistics are lower than this, but in Canada such stats are derived through self-identification, and stigma and underdiagnosis mean that many women who are functionally disabled in one way or another do not identify as such. And despite these numbers, it is quite rare for governments or advocacy organizations other than DAWN to give the experiences, barriers, and issues faced by disabled women the specific consideration that they require. Though all of this points towards a large and complex spectrum of needs, much of DAWN's work in recent years has focused largely on the high levels of violence disabled women face.
Though the group has kept working for more than three decades, they have never had core funding, and subsist mostly on funding for specific projects and on donations. It was only in 2007 that the group hired its first executive director: Bonnie Brayton. Though not all of its staff are disabled women, all of the organizational leadership and the board of directors are. They organize their work around four pillars: education, research, policy, and advocacy. They collaborate extensively with other women's groups, disability groups, and also trade unions.
Recent accomplishments include challenging Canada's lack of progress on disability issues by presenting to the committee reviewing Canada's compliance with the United Nations Covention on the Rights of People With Disabilities. They have been providing input to the current federal government around violence against women and with respect to federal legislation related to disability that is in the works. They also completed the first-ever comprehensive research report on the conditions of women and girls with disabilities in Canada, and are hard at work turning their findings into a comprehensive, long-term agenda for policy and advocacy work.
And as for what they would like to see from other activist, social justice, and human rights organizations – they are happy for the extensive opportunities they have to collaborate with other groups, but they are very clear that they want the struggles of disabled women to be taken up in a central way by all kinds of different groups, rather than falling largely to DAWN. They want groups in all kinds of different locations and sectors to do the work and spend the money to ensure that disabled women are at their tables, disabled women's voices are central to their work, and disabled women are in leadership positions.
Host(s): Scott Neigh
Featured Speakers/Guests: Bonnie Brayton
Credits: Hosted and produced by Scott Neigh.
Politics > ActivismType: Interview
Regional > Canada
Society and Culture > Women