Addressing Stigma and Discrimination Experienced by Women with Disabilities in Samoa

By Taulapapa Alanna Mapu, Project Coordinator, UNDP Samoa.

March 24, 2023

Women with disabilities in Samoa

Photo: UNDP Samoa

Due to how critical it is, addressing stigma and discrimination experienced by women with disabilities has attracted a project of the same name, to do exactly that. The Addressing Stigma and Discrimination Experienced by Women with Disabilities (ASDWD) Project is a joint United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Women project which seeks to address two key challenges in overcoming stigma and discrimination experienced by women and girls with disabilities, following an intersectional approach. 

The project has developed a diagnostic tool, called the Women Discrimination Stigma Inventory, to collect information on the experiences of women with disabilities with the hope to advance people’s understanding of the real-life challenges lived by women with disabilities in relation to stigma and discrimination. 

The tool was contextualized and translated into the Samoan language and piloted with 130 women with disabilities from around Samoa. 

Some preliminary results of the pilot surveys that were done using this tool include:

  • 17.7% reported that they sometimes experience being TEASED, RIDICULED, LAUGHED or GOSSIPED about by people they are close to, like their partners/husband/sfriends; 14.6% said it happens ALL the time; 10.8% said it happens regularly.

  • 19.2% reported that they were sometimes VERBALLY abused by people they are close to, like their partners/husbands/friends; 14.6% said it happens ALL the time with the remaining 14.7% saying it rarely happens to them or happens regularly.

  • 10.8% reported that they were sometimes PHYSICALLY abused by people they are close to, such as their partners/husbands/friends; 7.7% said it happens ALL the time and the remaining 6.1% said it happens regularly.

  • 28.5% reported that of the people they are close to whose actions have been hurtful, they are mainly their relatives; 3.1% named their partners/spouses; 2.3% said work colleagues, and 1.5% said church people.

  • 23.1% felt the abuse they had experienced was always or often due to their disability and 9.2% felt this was sometimes the case.

  • 37% said they always tell themselves positive things to help them stand up to prejudice and discrimination; 13.1% said they sometimes do, and 49.2% said they never do.

Informed by the results of the pilot survey, a needs assessment was conducted to capture the access to justice needs and challenges faced by women with disabilities who experience stigma, discrimination, and abuse when they seek justice services. Behavioural interventions and intervention materials were developed and piloted with a small group of women with disabilities and their carers. Following comprehensive consultations with relevant stakeholders, a family level intervention was agreed on as the focus for Samoa, “that aims to create a referral pathway for women with disabilities to access justice services in partnership with Nuanua ole Alofa organization (NOLA) and other partners.” 

To coincide with this year’s International Women’s Day in March, UNDP went out into the field to test this family level intervention with 30 women with disabilities and their carers in Upolu and Savaii. The developed intervention materials included posters, brochures and the conversation guide called “Your Family Conversation Starter Guide” which facilitates conversations that create a ‘safe space’ where women with disabilities are respected and listened to; where they are kept safe and protected from mistreatment and abuse.  A space where they can freely discuss with family members experiences of mistreatment and abuse that can happen inside and outside of the family.  And should they wish to do so, respecting their right to report incidences to the relevant authorities.