An archived list of news from 2011-2015. Continue reading below for news in reverse chronological order, beginning with December 2015, or jump directly to the following months:
December 2015 WEI Comments on United States Department of Justice Guidance on Gender-Biased Policing: Who's Missing?Disabled Women Say: Although there is much to commend in the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) Guidance on gender-biased policing for women generally, once again, women with disabilities are missing and ignored! The sadly cursory treatment of the issues confronting women with disabilities in situations of domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence and assault is very disheartening and devastating to the lives of the thousands of disabled women in the United States who may call on the police for assistance.
Read the report.
October 2015 New HRW report on access to education for children with disabilities. A new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report documents the challenges to accessing education for the approximately 540,000 children with disabilities in Russia. The report highlights key issues in specialized schools and the quality of education, as well as later challenges of securing meaningful professional skills necessary to secure employment. The report provides viable recommendations and proposes solutions to address these issues to make inclusive education accessible to children and adults with disabilities at all levels of the education system. http://www.hrw.org/news/2015/09/03/making-russias-back-school-more-inclusive
WEI is launching a survey to help us create a first-ever map and report of the field of advocates for the rights of women and girls with disabilities globally. This project will provide an opportunity for collaboration and joint action among human rights advocates, both within and outside the disability rights and women's rights movements. WEI's Survey and Mapping project will provide a sense of the scope and depth of the growing global field of disabled women's rights organizations and advocates, and also serve as an empowering organizing tool to share strategies. This first-ever global report will show where advocates are located, where the gaps are, and where there are opportunities for collaboration to achieve greater collective impact to push for more systemic and inclusive human rights policies.
The Committee has adopted a note on the General Comment outlining its likely scope:
Following is a transcript of the video. You may also download a PDF here.
Moderator: I call upon Stephanie Ortoleva, Women Enabled International.
Stephanie Ortoleva: Good morning everyone. First of all as my feminist foremothers have told me and remind me as I sit here, I of course do not speak on behalf of all women and girls with disabilities, but I merely tell you what they have told me about their lives because we all need to speak for ourselves, and not have others speak for us, which is so often a problem confronted by women and girls with disabilities and by the society in general. I have a few points; I’ll try to do them very quickly.
First of all, women and girls with disabilities experience violence at a far greater rate than other women and also experience unique forms and have unique consequences of the violence that we experience. Sexual and reproductive health rights and access for women and girls with disabilities manifests itself in many many challenges, not only mere access to physical examinations. For example, the screening that my sister just spoke about - many women with disabilities can’t have those because the tables are inaccessible or the mammogram machines are not usable by women who use wheelchairs, to say nothing of the attitudes of the medical community. I could go on about the various barriers confronted by women and girls with disabilities, most significantly the stereotypes we have experienced.
But I also want to address certain issues concerning government reporting requirements for Beijing plus 20. We did an analysis of a small sample of some country reports and I don’t know that any of you would be shocked to know that most of these reports never even mention women and girls with disabilities, despite the fact that the Beijing Declaration itself calls upon countries to recognize these rights. I talk about the access of this very room in which we speak to have our intergenerational dialogue. My sisters who use wheelchairs would have great difficulty in entering this room. You may have not noticed any deaf women here during CSW. But mainly the problem has been that there are not sign language interpreters.
Moderator: I am sorry to interrupt but I am having a real challenge with time, so...
Stephanie Ortoleva: So just one last comment, please. Women and girls with disabilities are women, too. We call upon the women’s movement, UN Women and our government actors to not forget us as we are often the forgotten sisters in these dialogues. Thank You.
Published by The Women's Media Group, January 2015 Summary: The Women's Media Center—founded by Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem, and Robin Morgan—presents its first comprehensive guide to using accurate, inclusive, creative, and clear language. At a time when language is too often used to "spin" instead of communicate, Unspinning the Spin: The Women's Media Center Guide to Fair and Accurate Language was created to help everyone understand and be understood. Unspinning the Spin offers the convenience of a dictionary, the authority of a usage guide, the helpfulness of a thesaurus, and the wit and wisdom of an entertaining and authoritative teacher of the subject. It's invaluable for journalists, bloggers, students, teachers, government officials, and communications professionals, and it will be compelling for any reader who loves the English language.
January 2015 As we welcome in 2015, a New year of activism for women’s rights and the rights of women and girls with disabilities, we must not forget our own needs as passionate activists. I take the below from an e-mail I received a few years ago, sources below.
Everyone has the right to stand up, to speak out and to defend human rights, women’s rights and disability rights and the intersections among all of these. Everyone has the right to defend these rights safely, without fear of retribution, such as physical violence, slander or attacks on their families. Equally, everyone has the right to defend these rights and enjoy a full life, without sacrificing livelihoods, health or happiness.
Self-Care for Activists
When I think about what self care means, I realize that I first need to begin with what activism means to me. I love human rights activism. It is my passion and my path. It makes me happy. When I make a change, even a small one, I feel joy. I feel it when my friends succeed – that shared sense of success. And renewed hope that it is worth it.
When I think I’ve failed, or struggle with that grinding sense of not being able to do enough, I am devastated. I feel like I’ve been climbing a mountain, and just can’t go a step further.
Self-care, wellness, sustainability – to me, it is all about finding a way to have balance. To keep doing this work with love, passion and fun -- and to be able to take the hard times in my stride, to have perspective and to understand that what we do is enough. That I am enough.
It means I have enough inside me to take care of – and love – my own body, heart and soul. To have enough to hold my children with pleasure and without distraction. To be present with them. To have enough to laugh and play with my lover. To be with my friends and family. Without fear, or future regret. It also means being able to afford doing the work, without sacrificing all the other, equally important parts of my life. That I am not trading in my children’s education or my chance for a peaceful retirement, for the intensity of now. We don’t like to talk about that part of it, and I know its uncomfortable, but activism doesn’t pay the rent.
How we manage our resources as individuals and organizations is integral to how we take care of ourselves as activists Self care is a human right, and it is a shared right – one we can provide for others who for any reason may be unable to provide or practice it for themselves. And as has already been stated – it is not only in reference to leisure or pleasure or "down time" activities – it is access to the basic fundamentals of life – food, water, shelter, relative safety, a means to support oneself (however self is defined) and family (however family is defined). In many cultures selfhood extends beyond the boundaries of the individual, and includes family, ancestors, the natural world, the cosmos. Nurturing, protecting and maintaining our place in this larger order is self-care.
For many activists in the south, access to resources is a fundamental issue to any approach to self-care. I also firmly believe that self-care needs to be understood within a framework of rights... and responsibilities. We have a right to do this work and be safe, well and fulfilled. We have shared responsibilities as individuals, and as organizations – to take care of ourselves, our colleagues, organizations and movements.
And I believe, with all my heart, that it is possible.
What is self care?
Self care refers to those things an individual does for herself to reduce stress and burnout in the course of human rights activism work. It Implies our energy levels are rejuvenated so that we continue with the human rights work uninterrupted.
Caring for YOU - your most valuable resource
New Tactics promotes a methodology that is based on understanding three key areas of knowledge for sound development of strategy and tactics (key to moving any issue forward) taken from Sun Tzu over 2,000 years ago: Know Your Self; Know Your Adversary or Opponent; and Know the Terrain. It follows that an essential part of "Know Your Self" for effective activism is understanding how to care for the most valuable resources in doing human rights work - each person. And remembering that includes ME - all of me - body, mind, and spirit.
I am always struck by the airline message each time I fly: “In the event that oxygen masks may be needed, place the mask over your own face before assisting others.” It is a powerful reminder that I can't help anyone else if I do not make sure that I have taken care of my own need to breathe. The air I breathe is basic to sustaining my very life. Taking time to ask myself, "what stops me from taking in the air I need?"
A formula that we have found helpful comes from "The ABCs of self-care are Awareness, Balance and Connection" (Saakvitne & Pearlman, 1996 - see the reference below). The ABCs are as follows:
Awareness: You must first be able to identify the signs and symptoms of unhealthy stress and the effects of trauma (whether experienced first- or second-hand). This requires awareness.
Balance: Seek balance among a number of different types of activities, including work, personal and family life, rest and leisure.
Connection: Build connections and supportive relationships with your coworkers, friends, family and community. All the work you do to create a better society will have little meaning if you don’t experience positive and healthy connections along the way to this better place.
Thank you for all you do on behalf of women and girls with disabilities. However, for 2015 I urge all of you and I urge myself to take the advice provided here to heart. Please join me!
President, Women Enabled
In the tiger's mouth: an empowerment guide for social action. Katrina Shields, 1991, Millennium Books, Newtown, N.S.W ISBN: 0855748923 (pbk.) This book guides you through the big issues that show up in activism: how to avoid burn-out, network, create stable groups, as well as how to approach listeners with bad news that they may not want to hear. The guide includes exercises that encourage discovery and growth, both for individuals and groups.
Transforming the Pain: A Workbook on Vicarious Traumatization. Karen W. Saakvitne, Laurie Ann Pearlman, and the staff of the Traumatic Stress Institute. Published by W. W. Norton & Co., Inc.: New York, 1996. A practical, how-to guide on secondary traumatization designed for all levels of professionals, paraprofessionals, and volunteers who work with traumatized persons. Contains exercises for individuals and groups that come from the authors' experience giving workshops on this topic.
The New Tactics in Human Rights: A Resource for Practitioners. The New Tactics in Human Rights Project, available at www.newtactics.org/sites/default/files/resources/entire-book-EN.pdf This book has a brief section on "Self-Care: Caring for your most valuable resource". You will find some questions that can be used to open discussion in pairs, in small groups or within your organization to take time to discuss the ways in which you are coping — individually and collectively — with the stress of doing human rights work.
For the CEDAW Committee statement on Gaza, see this PDF CEDAW Committee Statement on Women and Situation in Gaza July 18, 2014
For information on CSW59 2015 preparations, see www.unwomen.org/en/csw/csw59-2015/preparations
update to a post dated May 28, 2014
"The Committee is concerned that domestic violence continues to be prevalent in the State party, and that ethnic minorities, immigrants and American Indian and Alaska Native women are at a particular risk. The Committee is also concerned that victims face obstacles to obtaining remedies, and that law enforcement authorities are not legally required to act with due diligence to protect victims of domestic violence, and often inadequately respond to such cases (arts. 3, 7, 9, and 26) The State party should, through the full and effective implementation of the Violence against Women Act and the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, strengthen measures to prevent and combat domestic violence, as well as to ensure that law enforcement personnel appropriately respond to acts of domestic violence. The State party should ensure that cases of domestic violence are effectively investigated and that perpetrators are prosecuted and sanctioned. The State party should ensure remedies for all victims of domestic violence, and take steps to improve the provision of emergency shelter, housing, child care, rehabilitative services and legal representation for women victims of domestic violence. The State party should also take measures to assist tribal authorities in their efforts to address domestic violence against Native American women."
"Additionally, it is critical for the United States to address how to end violence against women with disabilities because they are an increasing population and constitute a significant portion of the United States' populace. Women with disabilities are at a higher risk of being victims of violence. According to DOJ statistics for 2011, the rate of violence against women with disabilities was three times the rate of violence against women without disabilities: 53 in 1,000 for women with disabilities , compared to 17 in 1,000 for females without disabilities. Despite these shocking statistics, funding for disability-specific programs authorized under VAWA was reduced from $10 million to $9 million."
March 14, 2014 CSW58 Parallel Event:
Progress? Participation of Women and Girls with Disabilities in Education and Employment in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Fields
This dynamic panel of experts and practitioners assessed progress in the inclusion of women and girls with disabilities in education and employment in the science, technology, engineering & math fields, as part of the CSW 58’s Review Theme. The Final Conclusions from CSW 55 made specific reference to the urgent need to include women and girls with disabilities in these critical fields. Women with disabilities continue to have the lowest education and employment rates among all women & this panel explores the current situation and successful strategies for progress.
Updated 5/12/2014 with post-event documents and photos. More information regarding this side event is available on our CSW58 page.
March 5, 2014 The DisAbled Women's Network of Canada (DAWN-RAFH Canada) has launched a new resource aimed at understanding and addressing violence against women with disAbilities and Deaf women. roduced in collaboration with The Learning Centre at University of Western Ontario's Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children, this Resource and Educational Tool highlights the context of violence experienced by women with disabilities and provides statistics and important resources. Based on both research and the lived experiences of women with disAbilities and Deaf women, this publication sheds light on the range of ways in which women with disAbilities experience violence – physical, sexual, psychological, and financial at the individual level, as well as naming ableism and audism as forms of violence against women with disAbilities and Deaf women. It has been translated into French, ASL, and LSQ (Langue des signes québécoise) and can be found at DAWN-RAFH Canada's website or you can visit the Learning Network website
February 13, 2014 This "V-Day," stand in support of the billion women around the world who are survivors of violence and rape. As you follow the One Billion Rising for Justice Campaign in the news tomorrow, we'd like to share a perspective from Hesperian’s Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities.
"Disabled women and girls are even more likely to be abused, hurt, or sexually assaulted than non-disabled women. A woman's disability never makes violence, abuse, or neglect OK. Women with disabilities deserve to live in safety, with people who care about them and treat them well." (p. 287)
Access to accurate information about violence and how to seek support are critically important for women with disabilities experiencing violence from a partner, family member, caretaker, or colleague. A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities contains clear information about different kinds of abuse, preventing abuse, support for women seeking to leave a violent relationship, rape, abuse in institutions, and ideas to help women be safer from violence. Learn how you can take part in the world-wide movement of men and women working to end gender-based violence. Available in our free HealthWiki in English and just released in Spanish, this title is screen-reader accessible in the HealthWiki for people with visual impairments.
February 13, 2014 Non-partner sexual violence against women common worldwide Lancet study finds. One in 14 women around the world aged 15 or older has been sexually assaulted by someone other than an intimate partner, according to a new study by an international team of researchers. But even that disturbing number is probably a low estimate, the study points out, because sexual violence often goes unreported as a result of women’s fear of being blamed and a lack of support from families and communities. “Sexual violence against women is common worldwide, with endemic levels seen in some areas,” write the study’s authors. “Our findings,” they add, “indicate a pressing health and human rights concern.”
Read the full study here: Worldwide prevalence of non-partner sexual violence: a systematic review : The Lancet
Read a report on the study on the Minnpost website.
February 7, 2014 Announcement: "Promoting Empowerment through Journalism: WOMEN’S VOICE in the Public Sphere" Side Event March 12, 2014. The role of news reporting has been recognized as an essential element in women’s social advancement for more than two centuries. Reporting holds the potential to make women’s conditions known and their voices heard, to make women’s contributions to their communities visible and to articulate their views on urgent issues of the day. At a side event entitled Promoting Empowerment through Journalism: WOMEN’S VOICE in the Public Sphere at the UN Commission on the Status of Women on Wednesday, March 12, 2014, at 2:30 pm. Stephanie Ortoleva, Women Enabled, Inc. President, will discuss media discussions of issues of concern to women with disabilities and our role in the media and news reporting. More information is available on our calendar. Download a flyer to distribute, available as PDF or Word Doc: Journalism Side Panel PDF | Journalism Side Panel Word Doc
January 31, 2014 Pink pistols to see off rapists? Don't make me laugh. "It's true. India presents its women with a gun to defend
themselves. A pretty pink handgun, no less. It will be named
'Nirbheek' – which means 'fearless' in Hindi – and is intended
as a tribute to the 23-year-old student whose brutal attack in
India's capital in 2012 sparked outrage. But with pink
pistols? That's so ludicrous, it makes most Indian women
want to puke. Ironically, as I write, today is the anniversary
of Gandhi's death, the world's biggest proponent of
non-violence." — Mari Marcel Thekaekara, The New Internationalist, Oxford, UK.
Read more about pink pistols.
January 17, 2014 In an article entitled “Three-pronged Fight for Disability Rights,” on Friday, January 17, 2014, India Telegraph reporter Mohua Das interviewed Women Enabled President Stephanie Ortoleva and her India colleagues on their collaborative project on addressing violence against women and girls with disabilities. Das noted that “… a Skype session last summer with two activists half the world away found Stephanie bonding over a common goal: empowering women with disabilities.” Stephanie Ortoleva from Women Enabled, Inc. in the United States, and Jeeja Gosh from the Indian Institute for Cerebral Palsy and Anamitra Mukherjee from Swayam(it works to prevent violence against women) are working together on a project to bring together women’s rights organizations and disability rights organizations so that women’s rights organizations can more effectively work with women and girls with disabilities who are surviving violence and so that disability rights organizations can better understand the threats of gender-based violence facing women and girls with disabilities. The collaborators are developing training modules for various stakeholders which will be used throughout India and hopefully beyond as this innovative collaborative effort moves forward. Stephanie, Jeeja and Anamitra outlined various myths about women and girls with disabilities and then rebutted each one. Follow this link to read the story online.
– Provision of adequate and appropriate counseling facilities for women with disabilities
– Rehabilitation for women with disabilities after sexual and gender-based violence
– Supervision and monitoring of institutions in which women and girls with disabilities live to ensure that complaints of violence are addressed
– Provision of training for law enforcement officials and judges regarding violence against women and girls with disabilities
– Data collection (desegrated by both disability and gender) and analysis of crimes of sexual and gender-based violence against women with disabilities
Safety of women and girls with disabilities is central to our economic empowerment and thus essential for India's development.
Women Enabled, Inc. will travel to India in January 2014 to provide, in collaboration with our partners in India, training to women’s rights organizations and disability rights organizations regarding violence against women with disabilities and how these organizations can more effectively collaborate to address this pervasive violence.
Your donation of $50, $75 or $100 can help us provide these training sessions to an even greater number in 2014. Your contribution is greatly appreciated. Thanks for your ongoing support of women and girls with disabilities. Women Enabled, Inc. is a not-for-profit organization with U.S. IRS 501(c)(3) status.
October 30, 2013 AbleRoad Announces Official Launch of Website and App to Help People with Disabilities to Research and Review Businesses and Venues for Accessibility. Visit AbleRoad.com for more information.
October 12, 2013 The United Nations has designated October 11 as International Day of the Girl, with a focus on education. But as I read many well-written and strong feminist posts on this issue, the concerns of millions of girls with disabilities are missing from the dialog. Who are the missing girls? The deaf girl in India who attends a school for deaf children and who was raped by her teachers. The blind girl in the United States who wants to be a scientist, but is not permitted to take the classes and who is told a blind person can't be a scientist, especially not a blind girl. The girl with a disability in Pakistan whose parents keep her at home and will not even let her attend school because they are ashamed. These are only a few of the untold stories. But the statistics about education of girls with disabilities tells us even more starkly.
February, 2013 The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Méndez, presented his report to the United Nations on 1 February 2013, condemning the segregation and abuse of people with disabilities as violations of the UN Convention Against Torture… The conceptualization of abuses in health-care settings as torture or ill-treatment is a relatively recent phenomenon.” the Special Rapporteur embraces this ongoing paradigm shift, which increasingly encompasses various forms of abuse in health-care settings within the discourse on torture. Read the Report (PDF)
February 2013 Read Women Enabled's submission to the CRPD Committee for its April 2013 General Discussion on Article 6 on women. Women Enabled calls on the CRPD Committee to address access to justice for women and girls with disabilities as it elaborates a general recommendation on Article 6 on women. Click here for Women Enabled's submission. Click here to read the CRPD Committee's Statement on its half day of general discussion.
I am pleased to announce that, in cooperation with the National Organization for Women’s Global Feminist Committee, the National NOW Officers and other international women’s human rights colleagues, we are pleased to present a video by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women Rashida Manjoo Esq., discussing the report she made to the U.N. General Assembly on Oct. 10, 2011 about the situation of violence against women in the United States.
Or view the video on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tjBAWt9h5n8
The report of the Special Rapporteur is a result of her information-gathering mission to the U.S. and contains findings about military violence, violence against women in detention, violence against Native American women, gun violence and its impact on women, and remedies for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, as well as extensive recommendations to the U.S. Government. The report can be read here.
This webinar was the result of the efforts of Erin Matson, NOW VP Action, Terry O’Neill, NOW President, Jan Erickson, NOW Government Relations Expert, NOW’s Global Feminist Committee and Deena Hurwitz, Associate Professor of Law, Director, International Human Rights Law Clinic and Human Rights Program, University of Virginia.
and please see the fruit of a year's hard work by many, many dedicated advocates at nearly 20 different NGOs - the compiled briefing papers on violence against women in the U.S. , Community, Military, native women, gun violence and Custody - PDF available at www.law.virginia.edu/vaw
June 2011 PDF: Stephanie Ortoleva’s Submission to the CEDAW Committee for their General Discussion on Women and Conflict and post-Conflict Situations – Inclusion of Women with Disabilities is now available on the CEDAW website.
Or view the video on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEP_9izHR_E
Stephanie Ortoleva, Esq.,
President and Founder
Women Enabled International, Inc.
1875 Connecticut Ave NW, 10th Floor
Washingon D.C. 20009
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