On International Women's Day 2019 the twittersphere was alight with comments, positive supporting and back slapping. There's also a fair amount of trolling going on, though that's life when you're a woman. But what if you're a woman with a disability?
It's well recognised that as a woman you are more at risk of many things – violence, sexual harassment, employment issues, low wages etc. But as a woman with a disability you are much more likely to suffer these injustices.
The figures are fuzzy but the people who do research into these things use terms such as 'significantly more likely', 'more frequently' and 'more severe'. If you don't live in a First World country, the risks rise even more significantly with even more frequency and severity.
Let's look at this more closely.
In this country, today, if you are disabled you are less likely to have a job even if you are more than capable of working. If you do have a job you are more likely to be paid less than a woman who is not disabled. You are more at risk of abuse, and yet less likely to leave because of that abuse – usually because the abuser is your only care giver. You are less likely to be believed if you report the abuse, and if you leave the relationship, not all refuges are accessible.
The latest research says that women are less likely to be believed in a medical situation especially in regards to pain. Women with disabilities have an even greater issue with this, especially if their disability is an intellectual one. Regardless of gender, you are more likely to die due to misdiagnosis if you have a learning disability. I don't know if it is higher for women in that instance, but I would suspect so.
Cat-calling in the street may not be so significant, but rolling through Birmingham New Street Station in a wheelchair can show you a whole new level of inappropriate sexual innuendo and lines of questioning. I should know as I've experienced it.
In some countries you can be divorced for becoming disabled, and then be rejected by your family because you're now disabled and divorced.
The #MeToo and #ChurchToo campaigns have been a helpful tool, but criticised by many for it being about women of privilege supporting other women of privilege. I can't really give an opinion on that, only on what I see. I write from a position of privilege being a disabled woman who is loved by her church while also actively supported in ministry. My gender and ability don't come into the equation, only my faith, character and gifts.
I'm also privileged to be surrounded by other women in ministry who cheer lead and encourage each other along the way. But my experience is a rare one. Outside of my church and that network of women I do experience discrimination, including the double whammy of prejudice in ministry – why use a disabled woman when you can use an able bodied man? Not being able to go to conferences because the venue or the route to the venue is not accessible is also a regular problem – even with women's conferences! But those issues are minor compared to what the vast majority of disabled women in our churches face every day.
I want to see more women's rights activists pick up on disability and gender – using their position of privilege to speak out for those women who can't speak for themselves. But more that that, I want to see the church pick up on this as a major justice issue in our world. This issue is not just a third world one, it's alive and well in the churches of the so called First World too.