Listen to the audio for Women with Disabilities - Towards Inclusive Politics & Policies 5-19-16
WEI president Stephanie Ortoleva presents at Women Deliver global conference in Copenhagen in May 2016.
Date: Thursday, May 19, 2016 Location: Conference Room B3-3 Time: 13:30-14:30
Women with Disabilities are the world’s largest minority. In the session, presenters will share strategies to link women with disabilities with Sustainable Development Goals implementation and build a transformative cross-sectoral advocacy platform to advance sexuality, disability rights, women’s rights and human rights.
Stephanie Ortoleva, President & Legal Director, Women Enabled International
Andrea Parra, Women Enabled International and Aquelarre Trans, Colombia
Nidhi Goyal, Programme Director, Point of View and Stand Up Comedian
Katrina Anderson, Senior Human Rights Counsel, Center for Reproductive Rights
Tanzila Khan, Founder, Creative Alley, Women Deliver Young Leader, Pakistan
Rupsa Mallik, Director, Programmes and Innovation, CREA
Updated June 22, 2016 Originally posted April 23, 2016 As we all know, the news is filled with discussions regarding the Zika virus, microcephaly, access to abortion, and women's sexual and reproductive rights—sometimes from a medical perspective, sometimes from a community health perspective, sometimes from a women's rights perspective, and occasionally from a disability rights perspective. When confronted with such an emotional issue in a climate of medical uncertainty and insecurity, nuanced language is often not reflected in the dialogues. After reading many of these perspectives, Women Enabled International (WEI) sets out a more nuanced perspective to frame a discussion that reflects the inherent rights and dignity of all affected by the Zika virus based on an intersectional disability and women's human rights perspective. We begin with an overview of the key medical facts as we understand them based on current scientific evidence, recognizing that new information is emerging on a regular basis, to ensure that this conversation is grounded in a common understanding of existing evidence. We conclude with an overview of some of the core international legal obligations that underpin the perspectives we layout in this document.
Please see WEI's Talking Points below in English, Spanish and Portuguese. We hope these are helpful and that they contribute to the discussions. Please contact us with any questions at Info@WomenEnabled.org. We greatly appreciate Translators Without Borders for these translations into Spanish and Portuguese .
The Committee has adopted a note on the General Comment outlining its likely scope:
Carolyn Frohmader, the Executive Director of Women With Disabilities Australia, served as a member of the Reference Group charged with planning the Conference and as a result of her fierce advocacy, Carolyn broke ground for women with disabilities to participate in this significant invitation-only human rights conference. Three women with disabilities were invited to the conference and brought visibility and voice to the human rights violations women and girls with disabilities face around the world: Stephanie Ortoleva, representing Women Enabled, Inc., Myra Kovary, representing the International Network of Women With Disabilities, and Therese Sands, representing Women With Disabilities Australia.
The main themes of the conference were inequality and accountability. The slogan of the conference was "all different, all human, all equal." There was a strong focus on not leaving anyone behind. One would have thought that women with disabilities (approximately 20% of the world's women and girls) would have been a priority. Women with disabilities had been mentioned in the original opening documents, but Carolyn had to fight for us to get a real place at the table. She demanded more attention to women with disabilities in the background paper and, on very short notice, Carolyn and Stephanie drafted a paper on the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls with disabilities that is posted prominently on the conference website as a reference document at http://humanrights.icpdbeyond2014.org/issues.
At the conference, we raised many issues regarding sexual and reproductive health rights, violence against women with disabilities, and our lack of autonomy. Stephanie was invited to serve as a Discussant for the break-out session discussion on discrimination and violence against women where she highlighted women and girls with disabilities and the need for government accountability and due diligence to end these violations. (This Discussant Statement will soon be posted on the Women Enabled website.) Stephanie also made a key intervention on women with disabilities during the main plenary on Monday, 8 July, regarding the need for greater inclusion of women with disabilities in the discussions, watch the video at: http://hosting.dutchview.nl/hr20130708b/videoiframe.php. Therese co-led a round table Human Rights Café’conversation with Geetanjali Misra, CREA, on sexual and reproductive health rights of people with disabilities which brought greater focus to these issues.
We spent our spare time at the conference lobbying behind the scenes – Myra (who also serves on the Board of Directors of Women Enabled, Inc.) was especially vigorous on this. We talked with the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, the Executive Director of the UN Population Fund, the facilitator of the session on emerging issues that had not been adequately addressed in the conference, several speakers, some of whom mentioned disability but often used the words "the disabled" instead of persons or women with disabilities, and other conference participants to raise awareness of the concerns of women and girls with disabilities. We each made interventions during the breakout session discussions. We also posted many cards on the bulletin boards where we added further thoughts to those discussions.
Our presence brought human faces with clear voices, demanding equality for women with disabilities, the right to full sexual and reproductive health rights, freedom from gender-based violence, and the right to make our own decisions. We raised issues of forced sterilization, forced abortion, forced contraception, forced psychiatric interventions, rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence and the urgent need for accessible and affordable sexual and reproductive health care, information and education, and we proposed solutions to make the conference more accessible and inclusive.
The conference participants wrote messages on kites that reflected our vision and hope for a world where all human rights, and particularly our sexual and reproductive human rights, are respected, protected and fulfilled. At the end of the conference, we all went to the beach to fly our kites for human rights.
The work was difficult. We still have a long way to go but we definitely made a difference. It is our hope that women with disabilities will no longer be "left behind" and that the ICPD agenda will move us into a new era where all women and girls, including all women and girls with all disabilities, can truly claim our human rights.
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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