More than 1 billion people, or 16 percent of the world’s population, experience a significant disability, and 80 percent to 90 percent of working age people with disabilities are unemployed in developing countries. People with disabilities are more likely to experience adverse socioeconomic outcomes than those without disabilities, such as under education, a higher drop-out rate, lower levels of professional integration and higher poverty levels.

In Central Asia, the Solidarity Center partners with disability rights groups to promote inclusive employment, including through inclusive education. Zakhira Begalieva and Gulmira Kazakunova, disability rights activists who head Kazakhstan’s I Teach Me and Kyrgyzstan’s Ravenstvo, respectively, last month joined more than 1,000 people from 100 countries in Vienna for the UN’s 2024 Project Zero Conference to learn more about Inclusive education and information and communication technology (ICT), and to explore regional and global alliance-building opportunities.

“Here you feel some kind of freedom and you feel that opportunities are not limited,” said Kazakunova.

In Kazakhstan, I Teach Me provides online training for youth with disabilities to prepare them for future employment and, in Kyrgyzstan, Ravenstvo educates women with disabilities to help them secure jobs and advocates for inclusive education to help increase job market participation for women with disabilities.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which aims to create conditions for persons with disabilities to participate in society on an equal basis with others and free from discrimination, was ratified by Kazakhstan in 2015 and Kyrgyzstan in 2019.  However, discrimination against people with disabilities has persisted.

In Kazakhstan, the UN Development Program (UNDP) reports that the country’s more than 750,000 people with disabilities every day, “face obstacles on the way to gaining equal access to education, health and employment.” The Solidarity Center in Kazakhstan is supporting partners who, after years of advocating for inclusivity, are now focused on implementation of new legislative measures and a legal framework adopted to ensure implementation of CRPD. Starting this year, more than 34,000 workers with disabilities were covered by measures to promote employment.

In Kyrgyzstan, the Solidarity Center is supporting a program focused on reducing discrimination in employment and promoting the labor rights of workers with disabilities—the first of its kind in the country. A 2022 Solidarity Center study revealed that only 20 percent of people with disabilities surveyed in Kyrgyzstan were employed, most in insecure seasonal or part-time jobs. Through a combination of legislative analysis, large-scale media campaigns, the development of a mobile application, individual legal support, educational trainings and collaboration with key organizations, the Solidarity Center is working to make real change for people with disabilities in Kyrgyzstan, including efforts to harmonize regulations and mechanisms in the country’s labor code to improve laws impacting people with disabilities. 

Unions and other worker associations can be especially effective advocates for disability rights. The International Labor Organization (ILO) reports that unions are the  strongest voices advocating for the rights of people with disabilities at work around the world. Public-sector unions, where survey data shows workers with disabilities experience higher levels of union representation, are natural organizers around rights issues because of their position at the nexus of governance and work.

Learn more about strategies that civil society allies in Kyrgyzstan, with Solidarity Center support, are using to advance and protect the rights of people with disabilities—including coalition-building and joint advocacy projects with national and local disability rights organizations, pro-bono legal support, data collection, legislative reform and trainings-of-trainers with disabilities. [Video in Russian]

Nigeria: Decent Work Inaccessible to Most Workers with Disabilities

Nigeria: Decent Work Inaccessible to Most Workers with Disabilities

Solidarity Center
Solidarity Center
Nigeria: Decent Work Inaccessible to Most Workers with Disabilities


A survey of more than 600 workers with disabilities in Nigeria’s formal and informal sectors, conducted by the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) Women Commission and the Solidarity Center in collaboration with Nigerian unions and disability rights organizations, finds that most workers with disabilities cannot access decent work as defined by the UN International Labor Organization (ILO).

“It provides evidence for what we have been saying for so long [and is] a powerful tool for advocacy,” says Nigeria disability advocate and FAECARE Foundation Executive Director Ndifreke (Freky) Andrew-Essien.”

“Securing Equal Access to Decent Work in Nigeria: A Report by Workers with Disabilities,” reports quantitative data collected from 322 men and 338 women workers with disabilities across seven geopolitical zones and the Federal Capital Territory in Nigeria, supported by qualitative data collected from union members. The study—for its sample size and breadth, as well as for the collaboration between trade unions and disability rights organizations—is the first of its kind. An estimated 1 billion people experience disability worldwide, the majority in developing countries. According to the World Health Organization’s 2011 World Report on Disability, between 25 million and 27 million people experience a disability in Nigeria, the majority of whom live below the poverty line. Indeed, disability, gender and low socioeconomic status interact to keep people in poverty.

The survey found that, regardless of legislation aimed at addressing diversity in the Nigerian workplace, disabled workers do not experience the same access to employment opportunities as their counterparts without disabilities and often face physical, social, economic and/or environmental barriers to participation.

Findings and Recommendations

Most of the 660 workers surveyed are self-employed and in the informal sector. Almost half of respondents earn less than Nigeria’s minimum wage and say their work environment is not accommodating to their disability. Most (62 percent) cite transportation as the most significant obstacle to accessing work, followed by a lack of disability-friendly facilities (33 percent) and poor communication with or unsupportive co-workers (19 percent). Nearly a quarter of disabled workers say they work more than eight hours without overtime pay. A similar number had experienced gender-based violence or harassment (GBVH) during the previous two years.

Researchers conclude that a variety of actions—by the Nigerian government, employers and unions—could build an inclusive working environment that respects, includes and accommodates disabled workers. This includes the revision of laws to outline reasonable accommodations in employment and the creation of a disability tax fund to provide adequate social security benefits. In addition, unions, along with disabled workers, should work together to demand reasonable accommodations at work and greater accessibility.

The ILO defines decent work as work that is available to all equally, is productive and delivers a fair income and security in the workplace, provides equal access to social protections—such as pensions, and adequate and affordable healthcare—and affords workers freedom to participate equally in decisions affecting their work lives.

Download a summary booklet here.

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