Women with disabilities are women too – we will not be the forgotten sisters in the dialogue
- © CBM/Hayduk
Stephanie Ortoleva speaks to CBM about why women and girls with disabilities must be included in both the disability and women’s right movements and the post 2015 framework.
What in your opinion are the top 3 issues for women and girls with disabilities?
How important is it for women with disabilities to work in leadership positions?
Are the voices of women and girls with disabilities adequately represented in the women’s rights movement and in the disability rights movement?
I have gone to the Commission on the Status of Women both in my previous position in the U.S. government and now because of my position as the founder of Women Enabled International. In the earlier years, just 5 years ago, you would see only a few women with disabilities there, you would see no side event on women with disabilities or women with disabilities on other panels. This year I am on several disability-focused side events and I am on a panel about witchcraft accusations against women and children and I am speaking from the perspective of women with disabilities. A few years ago this never would have happened, women with disabilities would not have been invited. Additionally, other disability rights organizations are now also sponsoring side events on women with disabilities so that is some progress.
We do have a way to go in having an impact on the CEDAW committee, when they do general comments, we get a little more inclusion due to our advocacy but we still have a long way to go and of course we are not named in CEDAW, so it makes it a little bit more difficult to make the CEDAW Committee move forward on inclusion of women with disabilities. What is interesting is that if you do read the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action from 1995, due to the activism of a cadre of disabled women who went to Beijing there are some good provisions in the Beijing Declaration which we need to use in our advocacy.
What are the challenges for the voices of women and girls with disabilities within the disability movement?
We have found these problems in many of other social movements and not just in the disability movement. For example in the U.S., a lot of the disability movement stemmed from Vietnam war veterans and mainly male leadership.