Color & Control:

News from DAWN-RAFH Canada


Global Summit on the Rights of Women with Disabilities
On August 26-27, 2008, at a Global Summit on the Rights of Women with Disabilities, in conjunction with the 21st Rehabilitation International (RI) World Congress in Quebec City, DAWN-RAFH Canada “assisted” at the birth of the first International Disabled Women’s Network! “We are 350 million strong!” proclaimed Bonnie Brayton, National Executive Director for DAWN-RAFH Canada.

Rehabilitation International welcomed a new president, Anne Hawker, a woman with a disability. A leader in her home country, New Zealand, Anne’s first act as president was hosting this historic first meeting parallel to the RI Congress, which provided women with disabilities around the globe the opportunity to stand together to make history! Anne realized there was an opportunity to bring a large consortium of women with disabilities together while the Congress was in Quebec, and with great vision and very little time, put together a program for a Global Summit on the Rights of Women with Disabilities, which was posted to the Congress website, to run as a Parallel Session.

On August 26, workshops and discussions were held around key issues, including Sexual Rights/Violence, Education, Legal Capacity and Leadership. As the Canadian representative, Bonnie Brayton led the discussion and workshop on Leadership & Representation, which led to the question: Should we come together and form an international disabled women’s network?

The next day, with just a few hours before the Congress’s closing ceremonies, Summit participants came together and made history. Without hesitation and in record time, the women laboured over a Declaration that was read at the closing ceremonies. “It was breathtaking,” says Bonnie. “I had Kiki Nordstrum (World Blind Union) from Sweden on my right, Sue Salthouse (Women With Disabilities Australia) on my left and Sylvana Lekkis (Lebanon) in front of me – can you imagine?… Some 40 women representing women with disabilities from around the globe, and we all stood together onstage and raised our voices and our fists as we read the Declaration. It was the result of two intensive days of discussion, sharing, debate and ultimately unity to claim our rights to the thousands of delegates in Quebec. We formed a working group, and are setting up links from our website to the new website, which is under construction at the time of writing. This was an important first, and we are all charged with broadening the network to include ALL disability women’s groups, individuals and supporters so that the representation really is as broad as possible. Our first mandate, which emerged from the CALL TO ACTION, will be to advance the issues of women and girls through the United Nations’ human rights framework – to those who will oversee the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and to those who have been charged with overseeing the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and we will seek our place at these tables.”

To learn how YOU can get involved with DAWN-RAFH Canada, visit www.dawn, call toll-free, 1-866-396-0074, or email

The First World Conference of Women’s Shelters – DAWN-RAFH Canada spearheads a Panel for Access to Shelters for Women with Disabilities
In 2007, DAWN-RAFH developed the National Accessibility and Accommodation Survey (NAAS), which focuses on women’s shelters across Canada and was designed to determine how accessible shelters are to women with all types of disabilities.

“Anecdotally, we know that there are transition houses that have had to turn women away,” says Jewelles Smith, Senior Coordinator of Special Projects for DAWN-RAFH Canada. “The unimaginable potential tragedy that this reality begs weighs enormously on transition house staff. Transition houses want the resources and the training so that they can accommodate women with a range of disabilities, and they look to DAWN-RAFH Canada to provide that information. The NAAS goes beyond an environmental scan – this undertaking will save lives. The survey is part of a major project DAWN-RAFH Canada has been doing through funding from Status of Women Canada.”

Through an initiative organized by DAWN-RAFH Canada, from September 8 to 11, 2008, DAWN-RAFH Canada, represented by researcher Dr. Michelle Owen, President Carmela Hutchison and Executive Director Bonnie Brayton, participated in the First World Conference of Women’s Shelters in Edmonton. It was hosted by the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters (ACWS), and 800 delegates from 51 countries attended. Michelle Owen, Sue Salthouse (WWDA) from Australia and Eudalie Wickham (The Barbados National Organisation of The Disabled) held a workshop about disability issues and worked at an information table, where they spoke with hundreds of interested delegates. This culminated in a panel presentation titled “Forgotten Sisters – Access to Shelters for Women with Disabilities,” which was filled to capacity! Michelle Owen also delivered a paper highlighting her research in the area of women with disabilities and housing, and presented information about DAWN-RAFH’s shelter survey.

DAWN-RAFH’s National Accessibility and Accommodation Survey (NAAS) project is ongoing and will move into a second phase in early November. For more information, call Leila Faraj toll-free, 1-866-688- 3296, or email

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