Innovative Practice 2019 on Independent Living and Political Participation

Leadership programme for women with disabilities

Light for the World, a global disability and development NGO working in low-income communities, has created a leadership programme for women with disabilities in Cambodia. The selected participants attend workshops where they learn to self-advocate and empower others, after which they implement and run their own small projects to practice their learnings. To date, 24 women have completed the programme, with 12 having since received formal leadership positions or promotions. A further 470 women with disabilities have been reached via the small projects.

“The program enables me to change from who I was before and dare to speak up with authorities and other stakeholders to pay attention to the most vulnerable groups especially women with disabilities.”

About the practice at a glance
Name of Innovative Practice:Leadership programme for women with disabilities
Organisation:Light for the World
of Implementation


  • To date, 24 women with disabilities have been trained, and 25 are registered for training in 2018.
  • Seven self-help groups have been established via the small projects, with 113 women with disabilities taking part.


Addressing the unique issues and concerns of women with disabilities requires their participation in political and other venues that affect access to their rights, yet they are often not involved.


Two women on a wheelchair learning in a workshop.

Women with disabilities from throughout Cambodia are selected to take part in a leadership training programme consisting of five workshops over a period of two years, whereby all the women are brought together in Phnom Penh to learn about leadership skills and to share their experiences. In addition, participants are assisted in applying for a grant of up to $1,200 for their own self-designed small projects, which they then run, allowing them to practice the leadership skills they have acquired.

Participation is key to the whole programme, for example participants identify the skills they want to learn, which forms the basis of the workshops. Other participative elements include the small projects which are designed to support women in the participants’ own communities, such as providing training on sexual and reproductive health and rights, and supporting children with intellectual disabilities to go to school.

The first 24 women who were trained through the programme have demonstrated increases in skills, ability to implement projects, recognition as leaders in their community, and an increase in self-esteem. In addition, 12 of the women have also received formal positions within disability organizations or have been promoted within their current organization.


The programme requires outside funding for the trainers, mentors, workshops, and the small project grants. Light for the World has contributed the majority of the core funding, but in addition the Dutch television programme “EO Metterdaad” aired the leadership programme, which led to approximately €75,000 being donated by viewers.

The first group of women has decided to develop a network that aims to register itself as the “Women with Disabilities Leadership and Advocacy Network,” and they will also act as mentors to the next group of 25 women to take the course.

In terms of transferability, Light for the World notes the potential for the practice to be replicated to other countries via a franchise system.

Two women in the programme learning.


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