International Youth Day

Disabled girls need to be seen and heard – and we are here to do that

[Brussels, 8 August 2022] Each year on 12 August, we mark International Youth Day – an opportunity for the world leaders and society as a whole to draw attention to issues concerning young people worldwide.

As the largest umbrella of women’s organisations in Europe, the European Women’s Lobby is once again using this occasion to highlight the work of its members. The struggle to achieve a just, prosperous and feminist Europe requires dedication, passion and a strong will to create space for the next generation of feminists, and the following story from Finland shows how big of an impact these efforts can accomplish.

disabled girls website in Finnish

We at the Finnish Rusetti ry (Rosette, National association for Women with Disabilities) are working towards launching a completely new media platform in October 2022 from disabled girls* to disabled girls (vammaiset tytöt in Finnish). The goal of the media platform is to center, unite, and fortify the voices of disabled girls aged 13-29, who are rarely seen or heard in the society. Also, because the society can make disabled individuals feel isolated and lonely, we want to encourage young girls to come together and find strength in each other.

There are close to forty million disabled girls and women in the EU alone, and we encounter discrimination purely based on our gender and disability – not to mention other intersecting factors like race and being part of the LGBTQ+, for example. But still, according to Finnish institute for health and welfare’s School Health Promotion study, girls with disabilities were mentally and physically doing worse than their non-disabled peers. Also, the study brought to attention that girls with disabilities felt that they did not get the necessary amount of support that they needed.

Disabilities are rarely seen in the Finnish media, but when they are, they are oftentimes portrayed from non-disabled perspective, which can be misleading, create harmful stereotypes as well as narratives with which we do not identify. Vammaiset tytöt media platform is created therefore to change that with content made from us to us and by bringing young disabled girls together in empowering online and in-person camps in autumn 2022 – which have already been tested and approved by disabled girls and women in Rusetti’s previous projects! These girls and young women who came together in those camps are the reason this media platform is in the making. The media platform and the camps are made possible by 50 000 € donation from the Finnish jewelry brand Kalevala.

We hope that by bringing young disabled girls together they can feel seen and heard. We hope that they can produce ideas and create content together about matters that they want to see, hear, and do. So far themes of interest have been dismantling internalised ableism, self-care, self-love, hobbies, and body positivity. We are hoping to facilitate these themes also in different workshops in the camps. As well as that, we hope to bring attention to disability rights in Finnish context and normalize all bodies and abilities. Hopefully, this will inspire other disabled girls and women worldwide to create a community and content that they want to see!

Project Worker at Kalevala x Disabled Girls, Rusetti ry

This article is a part of the International Youth Day 2022 series. For more stories about young feminist engagement from EWL members, please visit this section of our website and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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