Adolescents with disabilities: Enhancing resilience and delivering inclusive development

Organization(s): ODI
Author: Bassam Abu Hamad, Elizabeth Presler-Marshall, Jennifer Muz, Joan Hamory Hicks, Kassahun Tilahun, Kifah Bani Odeh, Letisha Lunin, Maria Stavropoulou, Nicola Jones, Paola Pereznieto, Sarah Baird, Workneh Yadete
Regions: Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa
Country: Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Jordan, Lebanon, Nepal, Rwanda
Year: 2018
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Around the world, there are between 93 million and 150 million children and adolescents living with disabilities. Most of those children (80%) live in the global South, where 80% of persons with disabilities live below the poverty line. Children and adolescents with disabilities are far more likely than their peers without disabilities to be denied their basic human rights. For example, recent estimates from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)  suggest that in some low- and middle income countries (LMICs), 26% of adolescents with disabilities of lower-secondary school age are out of school – compared to only 18% of their peers without disabilities. Differences in some countries are far larger. In Bangladesh, for example, of adolescents aged 15–18, those with disabilities are 40% less likely to have completed primary school. In other countries, young people with disabilities remain overwhelmingly unlikely to attend school. Children and adolescents with disabilities are also up to 19 times more likely to have been seriously ill in the past year than their peers without disabilities.

However, while both adolescence and disability are moving up the development agenda, as of yet, the needs of adolescents with disabilities have been largely ignored. This report addresses this gap by focusing on adolescents with disabilities in the global South. Synthesising the existing evidence and drawing on primary quantitative and qualitative research from four of the focal countries of the Gender and Adolescence: Global Evidence (GAGE)research programme (Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Jordan and the State of Palestine), we discuss adolescent capabilities and vulnerabilities across six broad domains. Our goal is to contribute to understanding about how to improve the wellbeing and resilience of adolescents with disabilities and ultimately promote more inclusive development. The questions underpinning the report are as follows:

  • What factors shape the development pathways of adolescents with disabilities (aged 10–19) in LMICs?
  • What are the experiences of adolescents with disabilities and how do they perceive that their wellbeing and resilience could be enhanced?
  • How are those experiences shaped by the individual’s gender, impairment type and context (e.g. urban versus rural, humanitarian and conflict-affected vs.
    developmental contexts)?
  • What role do laws, policies, programmes and services play in mediating these experiences and supporting the wellbeing and development trajectories of adolescents?
  • What examples of promising practice exist from which we can draw lessons?
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