Ottawa, ON – Today, on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the Decolonial Disability Studies Collective based at Carleton University is excited to launch the ENGAGE project, a research and leadership-building project aimed at engaging girls and young women with disabilities in India, Vietnam and South Africa. The “Learning with and from the global South: Opportunities for engaging girls and young women with disabilities across Southern spaces (ENGAGE) project” is a learning network of young women and girls with disabilities from across three countries in the Global South – Vietnam, India and South Africa. The project aims to support young women and girls living with disabilities to engage their leadership capacities and to support their activism for gendered disability equality, inclusion, and respect.

“Many young girls and women with disabilities face the triple burden of poverty, inequality, and unemployment. They do not have access to services and are most vulnerable, especially during this COVID pandemic and this period of rising gender-based violence in our communities. The research and possible interventions that will follow from this project will empower these women and girls with disabilities to advocate for the protection and promotion of their basic human rights.”, says Jace Nair, project partner and CEO of Blind South Africa.

By working in partnership with various Disabled People’s Organizations (DPOs) and universities in the Global South, the project will provide an opportunity for women and girls to share their ideas, experiences, and priorities, while also sharing and learning about each of their contexts and about gendered disability justice initiatives that may promote socially inclusive change.

In the past, most research regarding people with disabilities was conducted by people without disabilities from Northern countries, and the results were usually interpreted using ideas and theories that came from the Global North. ENGAGE seeks to change that dynamic by building on the leadership qualities of disabled women and girls and their communities, and by focusing on the ideas, priorities, and interpretations of the participants themselves. This ‘decolonial’ approach is important in order to transform these unequal power relations while enabling women and girls with disabilities and our partners from the Global South to re-imagine alternative spaces for knowledge production that come from their lived experiences and insight.

Project Director Dr. Thuy Nguyen explains, “By building these collective learning networks across unique cultural and historical backgrounds, we will be centering the voices and experiences of young women and girls with disabilities in ways that foster more inclusive, resilient, and sustainable communities in the Global South.”

In order to accomplish this, ENGAGE will develop culturally and community-engaged strategies to promote social change, such as the creation of photovoice and photo exhibitions, short films, theatre productions, and other similar public interfacing events. The project aims to support the work of the women and girls with disabilities to engage with their immediate community’s policymakers in order to promote a more inclusive and just society.

Dr. Phuong Huynh, a project partner from the Hue University of Sciences in Vietnam, states, “The ENGAGE project is important because it helps engender feelings of social engagement and active citizenship in women and girls with disabilities, and it will generate a more inclusive society in the South.”

Project partners include:

A Luoi Blind Association (Vietnam)

Blind South Africa (South Africa)

Carleton University (Canada)

Disabled Women’s Network of Canada (DAWN) (Canada)

Shanta Memorial Rehabilitation Centre (India)

UNICEF Vietnam (Vietnam)

University of KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa)

University of Sciences, Hue University (Vietnam)

Western Sydney University (Australia)

For more information, please visit:

Media Contacts:

Dr. Xuan Thuy Nguyen, Project Director and Associate Professor, Carleton University,

Dana Corfield, Project Coordinator, Carleton University,