DSD hosts Webinar on Promoting the Rights of Women with Disabilities | Western Cape Government



DSD hosts Webinar on Promoting the Rights of Women with Disabilities

30 September 2020

Today, Wednesday 30 September 2020, the Western Cape Department of Social Development hosted a Webinar focusing on “Promoting the Rights of Women with Disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.”  The objective of the event  was to bring together NGOs, government officials, and specialists working in the disability sector, to build on the existing knowledge on disability-gender barriers with the objective to mainstream gender-disabilities in the Western Cape.

The event forms part of a series of engagements hosted by the provincial Department of Social Development (DSD) to strengthen the whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach to the challenges faced by women in the Province.

The Western Cape Minister of Social Development, Sharna Fernandez, who opened the event webinar and is the lead Minister on the challenges facing women with disabilities, noted that “while addressing the current COVID-19 pandemic, it quickly became clear that our focus on inequality demands that we think seriously about issues faced by women with disabilities. It became equally clear that across all our programs (both the provincial Department of Social Development and Government as a whole), the specific outcomes and goals we are striving to achieve, simply cannot be accomplished without addressing the needs, concerns, and priorities of women with disabilities.” 

Minister Fernandez added: “ We are mindful that inclusivity needs to be at the centre of all the work being undertaken by Government. In saying this, we are working to create further awareness about women with disabilities, including physical, sensory, intellectual, or psycho-social impairments, in all our work, similar to the way that we approach gender, race, and LGBTQIA+ identities.” 

Special guest speaker, the CEO of Arts Cape Theatre, Dr. Marlene Le Roux said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the fore many challenges that women have faced for some time. We need to speak about issues of accessibility to various sectors of the economy. This requires an inter-ministerial approach to deal with the challenges faced by women with disabilities. It is also important that we also focus on expanding opportunities on the ground, especially in rural areas.”

Dr. Marlene Le Roux added: “We need to bring forth an African Inclusive Model of Disability Values that includes the full range of human experiences in society and in doing so, addressing systemic barriers faced by women with disabilities. If our policies don’t account for women with disabilities, the youth and other vulnerable sectors, we will not be able to create the change we need, to create a more inclusive society.”

The event coordinator and the Western Cape Department of Social Development’s Disability-Desk Manager, Nomvuyo Mabusela said, “Empowering and promoting the rights of women with disabilities requires a whole of society approach. However, to achieve this, we need to be realistic about the challenges facing this vulnerable grouping. We need to focus on solutions and interventions that best meet the needs of women with disabilities on the ground.” 

Speakers from both the NGO sector and civil society included: Dr. Marlene Le Roux (CEO: Arts Cape Theatre), Tania Melnyczuk (Director: Autistic Community Network), Lee Haskin (Western Cape Network on Disability), Adv. Bernadine Bachar (Chairperson: Women’s Shelter Movement), and Undere Deglon (CEO: Disability Workshop Development Enterprise).

All the speakers involved in the event noted that any approach to promoting the well-being, inclusion and dignity of women with disabilities, requires a whole-of-society, integrated and holistic approach. All speakers further noted that gender mainstreaming in policy design can be strengthened if the experiences of women with disabilities are at the centre of policy development and implementation. This includes applying a gender-disability lens to government services – such as how transport, water provision, and other basic services are accessed by women. 

The Western Cape Department of Social Development with the support of its NPO partners offers the following services for women with disabilities during the pandemic, amongst others:

  • Residential care services facilities; 
  • Protective workshop services;
  • Day-care centres;
  • Counselling and psycho-social support:
  • Victim support services;
  • Substance abuse services and;
  • Children and family services.

In the conclusion of the event, Minister Fernandez said, “We should see today’s engagement as the first part of a new and reinvigorated journey of cooperation and collaboration. Today serves as an opportunity for us, as government, to engage with women with disabilities, to listen to you, to understand the challenges you experience and to find solutions together.

If we are to truly live in a society where we are ‘BetterTogether’, it is of crucial importance that we provide integrated programmes and services to women with disabilities.” 

For more information contact:

Any persons interested in finding out more information about the services we offer those people living with disabilities can make contact with our department by calling, 0800 220 250, to be directed to your nearest local DSD office.

For more information about our other services, please refer to the Western Cape Department’s Website below:


Media Enquiries: 

Joshua Covenant Chigome

Spokesperson for the Minister of Social Development, Minister Sharna Fernandez

Tel: 021 483 9217

Cell: 083 661 4949

Email: Joshua.chigome@westerncape.gov.za­