In the words of Elena Kochoska: "Women bear a double burden because of their gender and disability”

Date: 11 July 2017


Elena Kochoska. Photo: UN Women Europe and Central Asia/Rena Effendi

Elena Kochoska is a vocal advocate for persons with disabilities in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and works at the local organization, Polio Plus, Movement Against Disability. She participated in training and mentoring sessions on gender-responsive budgeting (GRB)—analyzing a budget to ensure women’s needs are met—organized by UN Women’s regional programme on GRB, supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Austrian Development Agency. Thereafter, she prepared a report that did a cost-benefit analysis showing the benefits of including children with disabilities in mainstream education.

I wanted to be a doctor, a soldier, a politician and a dancer. And I become all of them when I started working in Polio Plus, Movement Against Disability. I don’t wear a white coat, but I help others every day; I am not a soldier, but I fight for the rights of persons with disabilities; I am not a politician, but I advocate; and I am not a dancer, but I give public talks and appear on media.

Working here since 2004 has been a journey of learning. I learnt how persons with disabilities are excluded from decisions and policies that impact their lives because of harmful stereotypes and gender disparities. Usually, women with disabilities bear the double burden because of their gender and disability.

The lack of knowledge and awareness are the greatest challenges in creating policies that respond to the needs of everyone, especially persons with disabilities. There needs to be greater awareness and understanding that every policy needs to be relevant and applied to all citizens, [without intended or unintended discrimination].

Last year, I learned how to use gender-responsive budgeting as a tool to analyze the local budget and to make sure it meets the needs and priorities of men and women and promotes gender equality. Later, I used this tool to promote improved integration of children with disabilities in public schools in the Municipality of Aerodrom, in Skopje. The analysis we prepared made a strong case for free transportation for children with disabilities. We proposed a specially adapted van for transportation of the children and adjustments to the current educational facilities to meet the needs of girls and boys with disabilities.

I try to use gender-responsive budgeting in my everyday work now, assessing whether public funds are meeting the needs of women and men with disabilities. I believe that inclusive and integrated education—where students with/without disabilities learn together—and political participation of persons with disabilities are critical for establishing a democratic and just society.”