How We Began
Founded in 2012, WEI is the first international organization dedicated to advancing intersectional gender and disability rights.
Women Enabled International (WEI) was founded in 2012 by Stephanie Ortoleva to address a gap that she could no longer abide between disability rights and women’s rights. Until then, women’s rights agencies, experts, funders and activists overlooked or dismissed disability as ‘not our issue’ – just as disability rights actors and agendas often excluded disabled women’s issues from their purview.
WEI pioneered the application of an intersectional gender and disability framework to international human rights advocacy and has effectively worked to amplify the voices of women and gender nonconforming people with disabilities in spaces where their rights are discussed and where decisions affecting their lives are made.
Over the years, WEI has grown from a one-woman operation engaging in U.N. advocacy, to a dynamic organization with a diverse and talented team of lawyers, advocates, and organizers working from our offices in New York City and Washington DC and in other locations in the U.S., the U.K and Spain, under the guidance of a global governing board.
Our growth has enabled us to broaden our scope and presence, not only increasing and enhancing our advocacy, but deepening relationships with human rights experts, fostering dynamic partnerships with colleague organizations, conducting extensive research and consultation projects, and taking on ambitious initiatives like the global survey and mapping project, the comprehensive accountABILITY Toolkits, and four multi-day regional convenings.
WEI’s groundbreaking accountABILITY Toolkits and accompanying training workshops have empowered people living at the intersection of gender of disability and organizations working on their behalf with the knowledge and skills to make use of available human rights mechanisms to hold States accountable for their human rights obligations and to advance the rights of women and gender nonconforming persons with disabilities worldwide.
Our inaugural comprehensive Toolkit comprises a guide to advocacy with the U.N. human rights system, analyses of U.N. human rights standards on sexual and reproductive health and rights and on the right to be free from gender-based violence, and fact sheets summarizing how civil society can engage with UN treaty bodies, UN Special Procedures, and the Universal Periodic Review. WEI expanded our accountABILITY Toolkit resources in 2021 to include toolkits for using the African and Inter-American regional human rights systems.
Our Work with the United Nations
WEI advocates with the United Nations to ensure that human rights standards respond to the lived experiences of women and girls with disabilities.
Convenings of Feminists with Disabilities
WEI convenes feminists with disabilities to share information and strategies to address common challenges, sharpen advocacy skills, and foster organizing for collective action. These intensive multi-day events have brought together advocates for a global convening in Switzerland and three regional convenings in Costa Rica, South Africa, and Thailand.
Building on the relationships and knowledge established during these convenings, WEI and convening participants have partnered on international human rights advocacy with the UN, to advocate for a stronger presence of feminists with disabilities at regional and global forums, and on coordinated international initiatives, such as our COVID-19 response efforts.
Global Map of Advocates
Connect with advocates for the rights of women and persons with disabilities.