Welcome to W-DARE

On behalf of all of the project partners, I welcome you to the W-DARE project and the W-DARE blog.

W-DARE is a 3-year program of action research, developed by researchers in the Philippines and Australia, that aims to improve the sexual and reproductive health (SRH) of women with disability in the Philippines.

Women with disability can experience poorer health throughout their lives and have limited access to health services, in particular SRH programs. The United Nations acknowledges the right of women with disability to access appropriate SRH information and services, have sexual relationships, get married and have a family; however SRH programs are often not accessible or appropriate for women with disability.  W-DARE will develop interventions to increase access to SRH services for women with disability in the Philippines, and evaluate whether and how they have worked.  This will increase knowledge about how to make SRH services more disability inclusive, and increase understanding of disability inclusion across the health sector more broadly.

This project has been funded by the Australian Government, through the Australian Development Research Award Scheme, with co-funding from the UNFPA Philippines Country Office.  It will provide women with disability the opportunity to share their stories and make a direct contribution to efforts to improve their own SRH, as well as to contribute to national and international policy and academic knowledge about how to ensure SRH services are inclusive of women with disability.

The W-DARE blog will provide frequent updates on research progress as well as videos, photos and discussion about relevant reports, policies and research. The blog will provide a platform for research team members and participants to share what they have learnt through involvement in the project, and to share news from the SRH and disability sectors.

Dr Cathy Vaughan, Principal Investigator, on behalf of the W-DARE team

About W-DARE

W-DARE will be implemented over three years and women with disabilities will be involved across all phases:

  • Phase 1 (April 2013 – March 2014) will involve collection of quantitative data on disability prevalence (using the Rapid Assessment of Disability, or RAD, survey) and access to SRH programs. Qualitative data will also be collected about the SRH needs and experiences of women and girls with disability and why women with disability do, and don’t access SRH programs.  We will also collect qualitative data from service providers, and the husbands or partners and families of women and girls with disability.
  • Phase 2 (April 2014 – March 2015) will involve the team using the information collected in Phase 1 to design and implement initiatives working with both service providers, and women with disability and their communities, to address barriers to SRH services and information for women with disability.
  • Phase 3 (April 2015 – March 2016) will focus on evaluation of these initiatives and develop guidelines for gender-sensitive disability inclusion in relation to SRH specifically and across the health sector more broadly in the Philippines. The guidelines will be developed and disseminated to service providers, policy makers, women with disability, and the wider community.

Who We Are:

Participants at the 2nd Rapid Assessment of Disability Training Workshop, October 2013

Participants at the 2nd Rapid Assessment of Disability Training Workshop, October 2013

The project is being led by researchers from the Nossal Institute for Global Health and the Centre for Health Equity at the University of Melbourne in Australia, and from the Social Development Research Center at De La Salle University in the Philippines, in collaboration with local organisations and service providers, including WOW LEAP, PARE, Likhaan Center for Women’s Health, University of the Philippines (Center for Women’s Studies) and the UNFPA Philippines Country Office.

Project Advisory Group

W-DARE brings together an exceptionally strong and multi-disciplinary advisory group to provide oversight of the program. Collectively Advisory Group members have expertise in research in developing country contexts, disability, gender, rights, SRH, violence and the Philippines.

  • Ms. Anne Harmer (Regional Program Coordinator, UNFPA) – Chair
  • Prof. Nora Groce (Leonard Cheshire Disability & Inclusive Development Centre, University College London);
  • Prof. Leslie Swartz (Department of Psychology, Stellenbosch University);
  • Prof. Patricia O’Brien (Centre for Disability Studies, University of Sydney);
  • Prof. Theresa Ujano-Batangan (Center for Women’s Studies, University of the Philippines);
  • Prof. Carolyn Sobritchea (Gender and Feminist Studies, University of the Philippines);
  • Prof. Anne Kavanagh (Centre for Health and Society, University of Melbourne);
  • Assoc. Prof. Kelsey Hegarty (Department of General Practice, University of Melbourne);
  • Dr. Chris Bayly (Royal Women’s Hospital);
  • Ms. Ugochi Daniels (UNFPA Philippines Country Representative);
  • Ms. Pauline Kleinitz (WHO WPRO Disability Adviser);
  • Ms. Carmen Zubiaga (Executive Director, National Council Disability Affairs, Philippines);
  • Philippine Commission on Women; and
  • Department of Health, Philippines

W-DARE progress

The last 6 months have been incredibly busy for the W-DARE research team.  The project has been established, contracts signed, office established, staff recruited and a number of trainings held. Partners have remained supportive and enthusiastic throughout.  Together we have finalised our research tools for Phase 1 and obtained all the necessary approvals.  The first data collection activity, the Rapid Assessment of Disability (RAD) household survey, has commenced in our two project sites – Quezon City (in Metro Manila) and Ligao City (a rural district in Albay Province).  Qualitative data collection is also now underway.


Project staff members: Dr Jerome Zayas, Dr Manjula Marella and Sally Baker and workshop participants at the Rapid Assessment of Disability (RAD) training session in Quezon City in October


The W-DARE research team has facilitated four trainings over the last few months.  Trainings have been conducted with quantitative and qualitative data collectors, and representatives from partner agencies, and include:

  • Disability and Gender Inclusive Research workshop, in Quezon City in August
  • Disability and Gender Inclusive Research workshop, in Legazpi in September
  • Qualitative Research workshop (to develop and practice using qualitative tools, and provide training in ethics), in Quezon City in September
  • RAD training workshop (to ensure familiarity with the household survey instrument, ethics protocols and sampling procedures) in Quezon City in October
Participants and facilitators at the Qualitative Research Workshop in Quezo City in September

Dr Cathy Vaughan, Dr Jerome Zayas and project partners at the Qualitative Research Workshop in Quezon City in September

DLSU researchers have also held two ‘refresher’ trainings with the data collection teams in Quezon City and Ligao City immediately prior to commencing the household survey and qualitative interviews.

Ethics approvals

The ethical issues and sensitivities associated with SRH and disability research are many and complex. We are pleased to report that the W-DARE program received ethics approval from both the University of Melbourne and De La Salle University, which means we have been able to commence data collection in a timely fashion.

Sharing our experience and findings

A number of conference abstracts about the project have already been accepted. Cathy presented an overview of the project to the Melbourne Social Equity Institute Disability Forum in August, and a paper on behalf of the research team ‘’Doing’ Action Research: perspectives on rationale, rhetoric, reality and results’ at the Development Futures (4th ACFID-Universities) conference, held in Sydney, Australia on the 21 and 22 of November.  The paper was very well received, with the project generating considerable interest among colleagues in the broader development sector.

Of particular interest was a short video, included as part of the presentation, in which project partners discuss the participatory nature of the project (available for viewing below).


Typhoon Haiyan (known in the Philippines as Typhoon Yolanda)

As everyone is aware, Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda devastated parts of central Philippines in early November.  Thousands of people were killed, many more injured, and entire communities rendered homeless.  While there were large scale evacuations in Albay Province, our colleagues there were spared the catastrophic damage seen further south.  All W-DARE staff are personally ok, though we would like to acknowledge the impact of this extreme event on our partners.  Likhaan, who provide SRH services to poor communities in Eastern Samar, were particularly affected – with one staff member passing away in the immediate aftermath of the typhoon, and another losing his house.  The University of Philippines campus in Tacloban was severely damaged, and our colleagues from the Center for Women’s Studies at UP have been mobilised by the Philippine National Government as part of their efforts to provide psycho-social support to typhoon survivors.  WOWLEAP and PARE also have members in the worst affected region, and we know that persons with disability are particularly vulnerable during disasters and for some time afterwards.

A number of international and local organisations are working in Leyte and Samar to ensure protection and support of persons with disability at this time, including CBM, a long standing partner of the Nossal Institute for Global Health.

Our thoughts are with our terrific Filipino colleagues at this difficult time.

For more information, please email us: w-dare@unimelb.edu.au

The research has been funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade through the Australian Development Research Awards Scheme under an award titled Sexual and Reproductive Health of Women with Disability in the Philippines: Building evidence for action.  Substantive co-funding has also been provided by the UNFPA Philippines Country Office.

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