The Women In Action

Today’s post comes from Krissy Bisda, representative of Persons with Disability Advocating for Rights and Empowerment (PARE), one of the W-DARE project partners

The W-DARE team is entrenched in the second phase of the research project, which we regard as the “Interventions” phase.  Data gathered from the first phase says a lot about the issues and social barriers that can impact the sexual and reproductive health of Filipinas with disabilities. To note a few, economic status of women with disabilities, negative attitudes of health workers and inaccessible infrastructure and hospitals/clinics and information surfaced as some of the major hurdles in maintaining a healthy and risk free reproductive life for women with disabilities. At the end of the first phase of the project, there was a thorough action planning process to develop interventions to address the problems identified in the evidence acquired through the household survey and in-depth interviews.

One of the many strengths and assets of the W-DARE team is that they invest in human capital. They have capacitated their work force and hired authentic, highly skilled and very talented women with disabilities. And I feel that this strategy has made the results of the project genuine and remarkable. Women with disabilities are also expected to be involved at this level until the project reaches its end in March 2016.  This year, the team is starting to do one of their agreed interventions, Peer Action Group (PAG) sessions, with women with disabilities in Ligao City (Albay province) and Quezon City (Metro Manila). The assigned peer facilitators and associate facilitators are women with visual impairment, women who are Deaf, persons with psychosocial disabilities, parents of persons with intellectual disabilities and wheelchair users.

Carmi Licerio, an empowered woman who uses a wheelchair shared her feelings of happiness when she learned that she would have the opportunity to be a PAG facilitator. Weng Rivera, a brilliant Deaf leader explained that the PAG sessions could elicit a strong and positive impact to Deaf participants because they can easily transfer the knowledge to them without language blockades, and in a manner they will easily understand. She added also that the PAG activity will help to build the leadership potentials of Deaf participants and soon after, there will be more leaders in the Deaf community that will protect and empower younger hearing impaired generations. On a personal note, I am very excited and amazed with everything we are going to do in this activity. It is quite challenging to prepare the learning aids as well as to make ourselves ready to take a leadership role in this project. I have high hopes and positive expectations of the projected impact it may have for all participants. I feel that through the PAG sessions, we can empower women with disabilities to protect themselves and understand their rights, specifically in relation to sexual assault.

There are a few new faces this year (also women with disabilities), who are joining W-DARE as associate facilitators. They are equally excited and so passionate to roll out soon the sessions they have tailored for participants with varying disabilities. In this action research project, in addition to learning from the data we get, our team is working to cultivate an environment free from discrimination, which recognizes equality and respects persons with disabilities. We hope to transfer our barrier free practices more widely to help uplift the lives of women and girls with disabilities, and to the entire disability community in general.

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Reflection on the peer facilitator training for Participatory Action Groups (PAGs) with women with disability

Today’s post comes from Lauren Temminghoff, a W-DARE intern who joined the W DARE team in October 2014 to support the development of training resources for Participatory Action Groups (PAGs) with women with disability.

From Thursday the 22nd to Sunday 25th of January 2015, peer facilitator training for the Participatory Action Groups was held at the Sequoia Hotel in Quezon City, Philippines. This workshop proved to be an excellent opportunity to bring together new and familiar faces from Quezon City, Ligao City and Melbourne, Australia. Also in attendance were our partners from UNFPA who continue to support and collaborate with us to ensure that the W-DARE project benefits women living with disability and their families.

Participants at the PAG facilitator training, Quezon City, January 2015.

Participants and W-DARE team members at the PAG facilitator training, Quezon City, January 2015.

The Participatory Action Groups (PAGs) are integral to the capacity building portion of the W-DARE project. The PAG intervention is to be made up of ten peer-facilitated meetings for up to six groups of women with disability and one group of parents of children with disability. The PAG meetings will be held once every two weeks for half a day over a twenty-week period. All meetings will be participatory, strengths-based and comprise a combination of structured activities and open discussion, with a focus on key factors relevant to sexual and reproductive health needs and rights.

The peer facilitator training sessions, run by Ms. Alexandra Devine and Ms. Lauren Temminghoff from The University of Melbourne, and Mr. Jerome Zayas and Dr. Asa Marco, from De La Salle University were designed to give future peer facilitators the opportunity to learn more about the W-DARE project, build on their facilitator skills and confidence and review the PAG guide. This was an excellent forum to gain much needed feedback from women with disability living in the Philippines to ensure that the PAG guide is context specific and content appropriate. The PAG guide aims to cover topics ranging from disability and sexual rights, sexual and reproductive health information, violence prevention as well as the development of action plans.

The training workshop was very successful, which I largely credit to the participants, who each brought their own skills and experience and contagious enthusiasm, which enabled us to all learn from one another. Having such a diverse group of women in one room gave us the opportunity to hear about peoples differing experiences with disability, sexual and reproductive health and the challenges people with disability face in the Philippines.

Clockwise: Annecita Albion (LAPDI), Janine Cruzet (Visual Impairment team), Ranilo Sorongon (Autism Association of the Philippines), Jezabel De Mesa (BRTTH), Theresita Lloren (TWH) and Joy Bien (TAPDI) during the PAG facilitators training workshop.

Clockwise: Annecita Albion (LAPDI), Janine Cruzet (Visual Impairment team), Ranilo Sorongon (Autism Association of the Philippines), Jezabel De Mesa (BRTTH), Theresita Lloren (TWH) and Joy Bien (TAPDI) during the PAG facilitators training workshop.

Evaluation of the training highlighted the importance of having the opportunity to practice various facilitation skills such as listening to people’s situations, and how facilitators might support each other to de-brief. Although, the various challenges of the PAG intervention were also highlighted, with participants acknowledging the need for ongoing support from the W-DARE team and partners to enable the groups to cover important topics in an informed, sensitive and respectful way.

Another challenge that punctuated the training was how to ensure that the PAG intervention can be tailored to be  inclusive of women with all different types of disability. The peer facilitators and the W-DARE team and partners in the Philippines are all working very hard to ensure the PAG guide and materials will be relevant and accessible for the different groups of women. For example, Ms. Maria Rowena Rivera (Weng), who has been with the W-DARE team since its inception is working with Ms, Marites Racquel E. Corpuz (Rack) to ensure we can make the material relevant and accessible to women who are Deaf or hard of hearing. We were also privileged to have Ms Janice Sarmiento Cambri, founder of Transforming Communities for Inclusion of Persons with Psychosocial Disabilities-Philippines, to support the inclusion of women with psychosocial disability, and Mr Ranilo Sorongon from Asia Pacific Centre on Disability and Ms My Sorongon from the Autism Society Philippines who will support the W-DARE team to engage parents of children with disability and also encourage the team to develop materials which are accessible for women with intellectual disability.

As an intern on the W-DARE project, coming on board in late 2014, I was indeed one of the new faces in the training workshop. I would firstly like to take the opportunity to thank our partners in the Philippines: Dr Asa Marco, Jerome Zayas, Raquel Ignacio, and Mona Pindog for making Alex and I feel so welcome and helping to coordinate a lot of the logistics around running a 4 day workshop. But I also want to say a huge thank you to the women who participated in the PAG peer facilitation training workshop. I felt so fortunate to be in the company of such strong women who are so passionate about advocating for the rights of women with disability and bringing about change in their communities. I wish each future facilitator the utmost luck in moving forward with their own PAG sessions and I cannot wait to receive further feedback on the progress of the W-DARE project.

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16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence & the International Day of People with Disability – Focus on women with disability

Today’s post comes from Liz Gill-Atkinson, a Research Assistant and PhD Candidate with the W-DARE program, based at the University of Melbourne. 

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an international campaign that starts on 25th November, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and ends on 10th December, Human Rights Day.  Violence against women is deeply rooted in gender inequality and on average, at least one in three women is beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused by an intimate partner in the course of her lifetime (1). The campaign hopes to raise awareness about gender-based violence as a human rights issue at the local, national, regional and international level.

In addition to being midway through the 16 Days of Activism, today, Wednesday 3rd December, is also the International Day of People with Disability, a day which aims to “increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability and celebrate the achievements and contributions of people with disability” (2).

At the intersection of these two international campaigns is the issue of violence against women with disability, who are disproportionately affected by sexual and gender-based violence due to both their gender and their disability (3, 4).

In 2012, a systematic review and meta-analysis of the global prevalence of risk of violence against adults with disabilities found that adults with disabilities are 1.5 times more likely to be victims of violence than those without disability (5). Whilst the review does not separate findings for men and women with disability, studies from around the world confirm that violence against women with disability is common in high, middle and low-income settings and occurs in many forms, including sexual, physical and psychological violence (6).  Some studies report that women with disability are two to three times more likely to be victims of physical and sexual abuse than women without disability (5, 7).

The vulnerability of women with disability to violence varies according to a number of factors, including factors relevant to violence against women without disability, such as low household income, lower educational level and illiteracy, poor health status, and alcohol abuse in the home (5 However, women with disability also experience additional risk factors that are directly related to their disability, such as; dependency on carers; social isolation; lack of awareness of what is considered acceptable behaviour and of rights; communication barriers; and lack of self-protection skills.  Perpetrators perceive women with disability to be powerless, reject their human rights and perceive that they are easily able to get away with abuse (8).  Types of disability also increase risk, for example women with intellectual disability are thought to be at greater risk of violence than women with other types of impairments (4).

Women with disability who are victimised by an intimate partner may be more likely to stay in the relationship because of financial or physical dependence on their partner (9). Escaping violent situations also poses many barriers for women with disability who face specific obstacles such as lack of communication aids, transport inaccessibility, and decreased physical capability for self-defence, among others (10). It has been well-documented that perpetrators will exploit the challenges presented by a specific disability, for example by removing mobility aids, limiting a woman’s ability to take action against the violence (11). Social and cultural myths about disability (which vary between and within settings), such as the myth that women with disability are asexual, further increase the risk of violence for women with disability (4).

In the Philippines, it is estimated that one in five women aged 15-49 experiences physical violence (12). Whilst national data is not available for women with disabilities, studies suggest that the number of women with disability experiencing violence may be significantly higher than for women without disability. The Filipino Deaf Women’s Health and Crisis Center report that approximately one out of three deaf women is raped and 60 – 75% of deaf girls are molested (13). Qualitative interviews conducted by women with disability with other women with disability in the W-DARE project found that violence and abuse were common themes reported by the women themselves:

“Instead of talking, always, he’ll hurt me. That’s how he dealt with our situation. He’ll beat me” (Deaf woman, Quezon City)

In her publication “What works to prevent violence against women with disabilities” Van Der Heijden highlights that whilst some research has been conducted into violence against women with disabilities, much more is needed in order to develop appropriate and effective responses to prevent violence against women with disabilities, in particular in low and middle income settings such as the Philippines (4).

After building the capacity of women with disabilities to conduct research with other women with disabilities, W-DARE has continued to work directly with women with disabilities, their representative organisations and their communities as well as health service providers and local government, to improve the SRH of women with disabilities, which includes efforts to address and prevent violence against women with disabilities.  In 2015 we will be working with the Women’s and Children’s Protection Units in Quezon City and Ligao City, and other service providers, to increase service providers’ awareness of the increased vulnerability of women with disability to violence.  We will work with violence prevention services to help them ensure that their services are accessible to people with disability, and that their staff have the knowledge and skills needed to support women with disability who may be experiencing violence or abuse.

A full update on Phase 2 activities that will be running throughout 2015 will be included in our second newsletter for 2014 and will be updated to this blog in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for more updates from the W-DARE team and project partners to learn about the W-DARE interventions as they unfold throughout 2015.


  1. United Nations. (2006). Fact Sheet: UNiTE to end Violence against women. United Nations Secretary General’s campaign. Accessed via:
  1. International Day of People With Disability. (2014) Campaign website. Accessed via:
  1. Foster, K., & Sandel, M. (2010). Abuse of Women with Disabilities: Toward an Empowerment Perspective. Sexuality & Disability, 28(3), 177-186.
  1. Van Der Hijden, I. (2014). What works to prevent violence against women with disabilities. WhatWorks To Prevent Violence. A Global Programme To Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls. UK Department for International Development. Accessed Via:
  1. Hughes, K., Bellis, M.A., Jones, L., Bates, G., Eckley, L., McCoy, E., Mikton, C, Shakespear, T., & Officer, A. 2012. Prevalence and risk of violence against adults with disabilities: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Lancet, 379, 1621-1629.
  1. WHO & UNFPA. (2009). Promoting sexual and reproductive health for persons with disabilities: WHO/UNFPA Guidance Note. Switzerland: WHO.
  1. Lin, L.-P., Yen, C.-F., Kuo, F.-Y., Wu, J.-L. & Lin, J.-D. (2009). Sexual assault of people with disabilities: Results of a 2002-2007 national report in Taiwan. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 30, 969-975
  1. Shettle, A. (2009). Women with disabilities in development: Intersecting invisibility, intersecting realities. A Report on the E-Discussion on Women with Disabilities in Development. Hosted by GPDD & World Bank.
  1. Mona, L. R., Cameron, R. P., Goldwaser, G., Miller, A. R., Syme, M. L., & Fraley, S. S. (2009). Prescription for pleasure: exploring sex-positive approaches in women with spinal cord injury. Topics in Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation, 15(1), 15-28.
  1. Center for Women Policy Studies (2011). The Barbara Faye Waxman Fiduccia papers on women and girls with disabilities. Washington, Center for Women Policy Studies.
  1. Ballan, M.S., & Freyer, M.B. (2012). Self-Defence Among Women With Disabilities: An Unexplored Domain in Domestic Violence Cases. Violence Against Women, 18(9), 1083-1107.
  1. NSO (National Statistics Office). (2008). Philippines National Demographic and Health Survey: Key Findings. Accessed via:
  1. PARE. (2012). Qualitative Study on the realization of reproductive rights and protection from violence for women and girls with disabilities in the Philippines. The United Nations Population Fund, Philippines.
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So what’s for year 2?

This post comes from Mona Pindog, a Researcher from De La Salle University (DLSU) involved in the W-DARE project. Mona has written about a recent planning workshop held with W-DARE project partners in Manila.

On the 26th of April, 2014, an Intervention Workshop for the Year 2 of our W-DARE project was held at the Luxent Hotel, Quezon City, Philippines. It was attended by representatives from the Project’s partner groups, including: Dr. Asa Marco, Jerome Zayas, Joy Salgado, Joy Garcia, Krissy Bisda, Gina Chan, and myself. The group aimed to identify and determine interventions to be implemented for the second year of the project in response to the initial findings of Year One.

W-DARE project partner respresentatives; Krissy Bisda (PARE), Joy Salgado (Likhaan) and Mona Pindog (DLSU).

W-DARE project partner respresentatives; Krissy Bisda (PARE), Joy Salgado (Likhaan) and Mona Pindog (DLSU) at the Year 2 Planning workshop in Quezon City, April 26th 2014.

The workshop started with an introduction from Dr. Marco on the initial findings of Year One. It was found out that a) poverty undermines access to SRH, and other health services, for women with disability, b) parents of adolescents with disability (specially parents of young people who have intellectual disability) have limited access to information, resources and supports for managing their child’s transition through puberty and emergent sexual and reproductive health needs (and is particularly true for poor families), and c) women with disability report high levels of violence and abuse, often perpetrated by family members [1].

 Dr. Marco also reminded the group of the intervention framework conceptualized by Dr. Vaughan and the group during a workshop last February. The framework identified four (4) focuses for intervention – the ‘supply side’ where the service providers are the stakeholders; the ‘demand side’ where women and young women with disabilities as well as their families are the primary actors; enabling local environments where local communities, organizations and government agencies are tapped for collaboration; and enabling the society wherein the public is targeted to be aware and knowledgeable of the SRH and other health needs of women with disabilities aimed through policy crafting and implementation.

 With these in mind, Mr. Jerome Zayas organized the pre-identified interventions (based on a workshop in February) into a matrix wherein the group can easily prioritize these. These interventions were ranked according to their feasibility, need, impact, probable support or interest of stakeholders, and budget. The results of the ranking are as follows:

  • Supply side – SRH service provider sensitization on disability (including gender sensitization); and development of training materials for service providers
  • Demand side – Establish support systems among parents/guardians and DPOs, that is, peer counselling; and development of IEC materials specific for women and girls with disability
  • Enabling local environments – Advocacy in relation to availability of sign language interpreters/service providers with sign language skills, including linking Association of sign language interpreters to service providers; and support for exchange visits of Quezon City PDAO (and DSWD representatives) to Ligao City
  • Enabling society – Media campaign to reduce stigma and discrimination (television and radio) in conjunction with NCDA; and targeted dissemination to the national NGO consortium on SRH and other stakeholders [2].

 These prefatory identification and prioritization of intervening actions, however, will still undergo further discussions on following workshops.

1. Marco, M.J. (2014). Indication of initial findings [PowerPoint slides]. Intervention Workshop for Year 2. Quezon City, Philippines.

2. Zayas, J.B. (2014). Indicative workplan [PowerPoint slides]. Intervention Workshop for Year 2. Quezon City, Philippines.

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Issue focus: “The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012”.

On April 9th 2014, after more than a year deliberating the constitutionality of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 (widely known as the “RH Bill”), the Philippine Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the bill ending a fourteen year struggle for supporters of the Bill.

Supporters of the RH Bill celebrate in Quezon City after congress passed the RH Bill (8).

Supporters of the RH Bill celebrate in Quezon City after congress passed the RH Bill (8).

The main deliberation before the Supreme Court was whether the bill violates a 1987 constitutional guarantee of protection for ‘the life of the unborn from conception’ [1]. Abortion is illegal in the Philippines, and it is estimated that each year, up to 4,500 women die from pregnancy related complications, and that there are 800,000 unintended births and 475,000 illegal abortions each year [2]. Whilst the RH Bill does not legalise abortion, it does legalise post abortion medical care.

The RH Bill aims to guarantee universal access to methods and information on birth control and maternal care and “enable couple and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children and to have the information and means to carry out their decisions” [3].

The RH Bill mandates sexual and reproductive health education in government schools, requires public health workers to receive family planning training, recognises a women’s right to post-abortion care in hospitals, and mandates free and universal access to contraception at government health centres through a family planning program that fully subsidises modern contraceptives under government health insurance [4].

However, the Supreme Court struck down a number of provisions in the RH Law, including a provision allowing minors access to birth control without parental consent (parental consent will be required for minors seeking medical attention even if they have previously been pregnant or had a miscarriage), requirements that religious healthcare facilities tell non-emergency patients about contraceptive options, and penalties for health care providers who refuse information about contraceptives in non-emergency situations on the grounds of religious beliefs [5]. Spousal consent for women in non-life threatening circumstances will be required to access reproductive health care [4].

The RH Bill also makes specific mention of access to SRH services for people with disabilities, stating “the cities and municipalities shall endeavor that barriers to reproductive health service for people with disabilities are obliterated” [3] (RH Bill, Section 18). This is a welcome position, as early W-DARE findings highlight a range of barriers to SRH services experienced by women with disability in Quezon City and Ligao City.

Supporters of the RH Bill argue that providing poor families better access to contraceptives would substantially lower the birthrate and reduce the number of unsafe abortions. The Philippines has a birthrate of 3.54, one of the highest in Southeast Asia [6]. Public health and women’s rights advocates highlight the urgent need to provide free comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care services to the poor – more than a quarter of the population lives on the equivalent of $A 0.62 per day [6]. Opponents of the bill argue that upholding the bill is the first step on a slippery slope which will inevitably lead to divorce and the legalization of abortion, euthanasia, and same-sex marriage [1].

The decision to uphold the bill can be viewed as a major step towards upholding the separation of church and state in the Philippines, where the Catholic Church has a significant and enduring influence, counting over 80% of the population of 100 million people as its members [6]. However, high levels of public support for the RH Bill indicate a growth in less-conservative views amongst Filipinos. A survey conducted in 2012 by the Social Weather Stations polling group indicated that about 84% of Filipinos agreed that the government should provide free family planning options such as contraceptives and that 72% were ‘in favor’ of the RH Bill [6].

Debate around the RH Bill was a heated and emotional issue, with polarised advocacy and prominent public awareness campaigns. As such, ‘reproductive health’ is now directly associated with the Bill and with modern contraception/safe abortion. This can be a challenging context for W-DARE that takes a more holistic view of reproductive health, based on the Ten Elements of the Philippine Reproductive Health Program [7].

However increased government attention to the SRH of people with disabilities, and awareness of the SRH needs and issues faced by women with disability, could facilitate a more supportive and enabling environment for W-DARE interventions in Phase 2 of the project.


1. Philippines reproductive-health law tests power of Catholic Church as it lobbies Supreme Court. Tom Hundley. The Washington Post. 17/06/2013.

2. Association for Women in Development. Philippines Supreme Court Upholds Historic Reproductive Health Bill. 10/04/2014.

3. The RH Law (Republic Act No. 10354). The RH Bill Resource Page.

4. Philippine Supreme Court Upholds Historic Reproductive Health Law. Centre for Reproductive rights. 08/04/2014.

5. Court Ruling on Philippines RH Bill met with mixed responses. 08/04/2014.

6. . SC: RH law constitutional. Tetch Torres-Tupas. Agence France-Presse. 09/04/2014.

7. Ten Elements of the Philippine Reproductive Health Program. 28/04/14.

8.  Source:

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Case study – Inclusive Research in Practice

Throughout this first year the project has repeatedly brought together partners from a diverse range of organisations (academics from two Philippines universities, including leading Filipino feminist researchers; SRH service providers and advocates; and members of DPOs, including disability activists) for planning meetings and training.  This ‘bringing together’ had a focus on building capacity in disability inclusive research practices and building technical research skills.

Representatives from some of the project’s partner organisations can be seen talking about their early experience of an inclusive and participatory research project on the video posted on this blog on December 12th.

During more recent data analysis workshops (February), members of the data collection team wrote down their reflections on the experience to date.  It was clear that participants felt that their technical skills in relation to research had developed. Written responses to the question ‘what have you learned’ included:

“New skills – confidence to interview and be responsible for whatever outcomes of the interviews. Discipline. Rigour of qualitative research” (SRH service provider)

“At first I felt hesitant to ask them if they will respond to the survey, I always asked the help of my team leader. But when I started to understand what the survey is all about, I had the confidence to interact with people from the community to invite them to participate” (Woman with disability)

Dona (community based rehab worker) collecting household survey data in Ligao City.

Dona (community based rehab worker) collecting household survey data in Ligao City.

In addition to workshop participants reporting that they had developed specific technical skills (for example, in relation to cluster sampling; in-depth interviewing of persons with varying impairments; or developing referral and support protocols in relation to disclosure of violence) through the trainings, they often described their most important opportunities for learning as emerging from the process of working side by side with diverse team members.  The process of being part of an inclusive research project, in practice, has developed new understandings among the partners and co-investigators:

“A transformation also occurred to me with respect to working with persons with disability.  At the start, I actually shared pessimistic attitude with them doing the tasks” (Academic researcher)

“I observed that the UPCWS [academic] enumerators were asking for ‘tips’ from other enumerators… WOWLEAP [women with disability] enumerators were generous and open in sharing their experiences on the field…. In a way, this recognizes the capacity and skills (including data gathering and fieldwork skills) of others regardless of their educational background or physical “disability”. This is also an acknowledgment that PWDs can do fieldwork, that they can do it regardless of their being “dis-abled.” Hence, a person with or without disability can learn research skills if provided with proper, appropriate and sufficient training skills. Her/his physical condition should not be a criterion or a sole criterion of a person’s capacity or ability to do” (Academic researcher)

In addition to this increased recognition of the skills and capacities of persons with disabilities, a number of participants reported that the project had changed their (sometimes prejudiced) attitudes towards groups seen as ‘other’:

“I learned about the importance of team work … patience is also needed… I also learned that when you are in a research, you shouldn’t judge easily” (Woman with disability)

“The challenge for me that gave me intense fear was when we did field work in a Moslem area. At first I almost wouldn’t want to go in their area especially when they were speaking in their language. My impression of them being ferocious has overcome me. But I really need to do interviews, so the survey pushed through. By God’s grace, it went well and I found out that they were actually kind” (Woman with disability).

Pia (from WOWLEAP) collecting household survey data in Quezon City.

Pia (from WOWLEAP) collecting household survey data in Quezon City.

This extended beyond co-investigators and members of the partner organisations involved in the data collection, to senior academics and bureaucrats on the project’s Advisory Group:

“I feel ashamed. I have been part of the women’s movement for more than 30 years, but you know until this project I never really thought that much about women with disability. We must do more to include them” (informal interview with Advisory Group member)

The process of being involved in an inclusive research project expanded team members’ networks, and saw the development of a sense of solidarity amongst this disparate group.  This is no small achievement, given the at times oppositional stance taken by group members in relation to reproductive rights (with many of the DPO representatives describing themselves as ‘pro-life’, whereas the SRH service providers characterise themselves a ‘pro-choice’).  The passage, and current blocking, of the ‘RH Bill’ (the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012) in the Philippines remains a divisive issue in Filipino society.  This was and will remain a particular challenge that we face in this project.  However, the interactive and participatory nature of the training workshops enabled participants to exchange their various views and to identify ways to collectively contribute to better SRH for women with disability:

“You know what I enjoy is, like in the recent workshop that we just had, people became friends.  In that forum we don’t talk about differences, we talk about how we can work together.  To me that is an accomplishment already” (interview with project manager, Sept. 2013).

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‘Doing’ participatory data analysis – overview the W-DARE Participatory Data Analysis Workshop

Liz Gill-Atkinson is a Research Assistant on the W-DARE program based at the University of Melbourne. She participated in the qualitative data analysis workshop and is undertaking a PhD which will explore the effect of participation in the W-DARE program on researchers (women with disability, academics and service providers).

Last week in Manila, qualitative and quantitative data collectors from Quezon City and Ligao City, (who include representatives of WOWLEAP, PARE and Likhaan) and local and international project staff attended participatory data analysis workshops. The purpose of the two workshops (one with the quantitative data collection team, and the other with the qualitative researchers) was to reflect on data collection processes, begin data analysis and start thinking about interventions to address barriers to SRH services for women with disability in Quezon City and Ligao City.

The two-day workshop with the quantitative team explored researcher’s reflections on conducting the Rapid Assessment of Disability (RAD) questionnaire, including challenges faced and lessons learnt. Researchers provided feedback on, and discussed the data collected to date and provided advice on the framework for quantitative data analysis.  Implementing the RAD questionnaire had been a learning opportunity for many researchers, in relation to building their capacity around the research processes (including sampling, recruitment, conducting the survey and completing the forms) and learning about the lives of, and issues faced by, members of local communities including women with disability.  

For women with disability conducting the questionnaire, learning about the lives of other women with similar experiences and demonstrating their capacity as researchers was significant.  For many researchers without disability, W-DARE is their first experience of working alongside persons with disability, which positively influenced understandings of disability inclusive research processes. Researchers also discussed the categorisation of data for data analysis, providing invaluable ‘ground truth’ context and interpretation of the early research findings.

The purpose of the three-day qualitative workshop was to collectively develop coding frameworks for qualitative data analysis and to explore participants’ experiences of conducting in-depth interviews and focus group discussions. Researchers worked individually, in small groups and collectively to develop, test and refine coding frameworks to be used for women and girls with disability, service providers and carers/family of women with disability.

In reflecting on their involvement in the W-DARE project, qualitative researchers also reported increased capacity related to the research processes (in particular seeking informed consent, the plain language statements, audio recording the interview etc.). Researchers’ experiences were also influenced by their profession, expertise, previous research experience and disability.  Qualitative and quantitative research groups include disability activists from DPOs, feminist and social researchers, and representatives of local government, both with and without disabilities (including women with vision impairment, mobility impairment and deaf women). For some researchers without disability, including academics and service providers, this project was their first experiences of working in partnership with people with disabilities. For many of the researchers with disability, W-DARE is their first experience of working in a participatory project, which engaged them as partners in the research process.

Participants in each workshop also discussed the key barriers to SRH services experienced by women with disability which had started to emerge over the course of the week.  The collective participation of all researchers and the contribution of diverse local perspectives in data collection, data analysis and planning, has shifted understanding about women with disability as researchers, facilitated improved research processes, and contributed significant quantitative and qualitative data, which will inform the activities to come in the next two years.

Completion of data analysis and planning for research activities for year 2 and year 3 will take place over the coming months. Stay tuned for more updates.

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