Promoting Sexual and Reproductive Well-being and the Rights of Women with Disabilities in the Colombo and Gampaha Districts of Sri Lanka

Final project
Year of publication:
Supervisors: Yvonne K. Fulbright
sexual health, well-being and rights, disability, gender, empowerment


Women with disabilities are ‘invisibilised’ in Sri Lanka. The strong cultural stigma attached with being a woman with a disability is long, stemming from religious and superstitious beliefs. They are wrongfully stereotyped to be bad luck, asexual , childlike and dependent and as a result are often kept away from the public eye by their families. Over the years however, some women have broken this stereotype and engaged in economic activity, educated themselves or have undergone vocational training. Yet, they are further discriminated against and are limited to employment surrounding disability and accessibility in general. When it comes to important issues like sexual and reproductive health (SRH), well-being and rights are not subjects touched upon in their lives. This lack of discussion or understanding is dominated by a discourse whereby sexual health is also not an open or appropriate topic of discussion in society. As a result they are unaware of the importance of SRH, well-being and rights and the products or services available to them as women. 
    This project is focussed on establishing a Consortium consisting of women with disabilities aged 18 and over in the Colombo and Gampaha districts with the goal of improving SRH well-being and rights. The beneficiaries will have the opportunity to undergo trainings and workshops to improve their knowledge and practice. In forming the Consortium, the project will employ a participatory approach where the women will take ownership in that they determine the Consortium’s activities moving forward and set up a leadership committee. Consortium activities will include the celebration of important UN days such as International Womens Day and International Day for Persons with Disabilities as well as potential drama and theatre events to showcase the importance of sexual health, well-being and rights for women with disabilities. The women will also have the opportunity to regularly partake in a storytelling and counselling platform to share and learn from their own experiences of being women with disabilities. 
    Once the Consortium is established, the members will draw up workplans each year and determine the terms of reference. In addition to the initial training on SRH well-being and rights, the women will undergo “Training of Trainer” sessions, where they will become certified trainers and be capacitated to conduct such SRH well-being and rights trainings for external stakeholders. This is aimed at empowering them to build agency. By conducting the trainings themselves, external stakeholders such as private and state organisations can understand the interaction of gender, disability and sexual health, well-being and rights and how these can be achieved. This income generation component will empower them economically and contribute to the continuity of the Consortium. A special focus will also be extended to their caregivers, parents and or partners who will be directly engaged in workshops in becoming sensitised to the importance of SRH, well-being and rights and eventually becoming agents of change for the women with disabilities.
    Strategic partnerships will be a special area of focus in that multilateral funding agencies, religious and community leaders, private sector, relevant government institutions and grassroots organizations will be of great importance to project implementation and the Consortium moving forward. With Covid-19 exposing great inequalities in relation to accessing products and services, the project will also collaborate with potential private sector organizations to bridge the gap between women with disabilities and the market to access menstrual and contraceptive products.
     This project will be implemented over the span of three years encompassing a budget of USD396,300.00. As such within the three years the project hopes to ensure a fully fledged Consortium and registered Organization of People Disability owned and managed by women with disabilities focussing on SRH, well-being and rights.