Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Women and the Federation of Disability Organizations in Malawi: Experiences of Struggle and Solidarity

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Abstract:  Women with disabilities are among the most marginalised members of the Federation of Disability Organizations in Malawi (FEDOMA), facing particular challenges related to sexual and gender‐based violence and family/home life; women with disabilities are both abused because of their embodied womanhood and denied many socially‐valued “traditional women’s roles.” However, women within Malawi’s disability rights movement transgress the boundaries of these social restraints. In this article, I share stories of women disability activists, drawn from an interview and participant observation‐based project, co‐designed with FEDOMA to explore the experiences of grassroots activists. In telling their stories, the women of FEDOMA detailed processes of empowerment and change, combatting their own and others’ experiences of violence, abuse, and exclusion. I discuss the ways in which women activists embodied roles that altered their communities and built activist networks, supporting one another in expressing agency, strength, and solidarity. Their work highlights a politics of care that emphasises the “traditional” and the “modern,” incorporating individualised human rights discourse into an ethics of community caring and expanding this collective inclusion to the oppressed and marginalised. In focusing on the experiences of Malawi’s women disability activists, we gain a more complex understanding of mechanisms of marginalisation, resistance, and empowerment.

Keywords:  activism; advocacy; Afro‐centric disability studies; disability; feminine politics of care; hybridity; Malawi; women’s resistance



© Sarah Huque. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.