What is Women Enabled International?

Women Enabled International advocates and educates for the human rights of all women and girls, with an emphasis on women and girls with disabilities, and works tirelessly to include women and girls with disabilities in international resolutions, policies and programs addressing women's human rights and development. The organization's logo is the woman symbol ♀ with the letters 'WE' inside of the circle.

WEI Global Women with Disabilities Rights Advocacy Report
Updated October 24, 2016


A woman draws a network on a global map.March 8, 2016. Women Enabled International (WEI) received generous funding from an anonymous donor for a Survey Project to foster a greater understanding of human rights advocacy for the rights of women and girls with disabilities, by disabled women ourselves and within the women's rights and disability rights movements,. Through an online survey and interviews, WEI produces this comprehensive report of the field of advocates for the rights of women and girls with disabilities globally and nationally, released on March 8, 2016, International Women's Day.

Click here for project details and mapping project report.

8/31/2016 update: A new supporting document entitled "The Funding Gap" has been added to the WEI Survey and Mapping Project.

10/24/2016 update: Respondent appendices have been updated - see Appendices IIIA and IIIB.

WEI Global Disabled Womens Rights Advocacy Report - The Funding Gap (PDF format) | (Word docx format)

Recent News Items
  • New Book!

    The first time 17-year-old Nujeen Mustafa saw the sea, she and her wheelchair were hauled on to an overcrowded dinghy headed for Europe. Growing up in the Syrian cities of Manbij and Aleppo, Mustafa – who was born with cerebral palsy – rarely left the house. Last September, Mustafa traveled 3,500 miles across hostile borders and perilous seas to Germany in a wheelchair, with the help of her sister. She describes the odyssey in a new book “Nujeen: One Girl’s Incredible Journey from War-Torn Syria in a Wheelchair,” co-authored by veteran British journalist Christina Lamb. A year after her journey, Mustafa lives outside Cologne, Germany, with two of her sisters and four nieces. In Syria, she was largely self-taught and learned English by watching American soap opera “Days of our Lives.” She now attends a school for people with disabilities and has learned German. Meanwhile, Mustafa is still waiting for documents to allow her to stay in Germany and apply for her parents to join her from Turkey.

    Nujeen: One Girl's Incredible Journey from War-Torn Syria in a Wheelchair
    by Nujeen Mustafa and Christina Lamb
  • October 2016

    WEI Statement on Women's Rights & Disability Rights at "A Rights-Based Approach to Zika: Putting Women and Girls at the Center of the Global Response," organized by the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), Anis - Instituto de Bioetica, International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere Region (IPPF/WHR), and Promundo-US, in partnership with the Embassy of Sweden, Held on Thursday, September 29
  • October 2016 Three New Universal Periodic Review Submissions have been created.

  1. WEI and Women with Disabilities India Network Joint Submission to the Human Rights Council’s  Universal Periodic Review of India

    Women Enabled International, working with Women with Disabilities India Network, compiled this submission for India’s upcoming third Universal Periodic Review at the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Drawing on India’s international commitments, this submission focuses on violence against women with disabilities, access to sexual and reproductive health services, and access to justice. As the submission illustrates, women with disabilities in India disproportionately face violations of these rights, due to discrimination based on both their gender and disability and stereotypes about their capability, sexuality, and role within families. The submission provides targeted questions and recommendations on these topics for India’s UPR, which will take place in April/May 2017. 

    Read PDF WEI WWDIN India UPR Submission September 2016.pdf
    Read Word file WEI WWDIN India UPR Submission September 2016.docx

  2. WEI and Sisters of Frida Joint Submission to the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

    Women Enabled International and Sisters of Frida, a collective of women with disabilities in the UK, compiled this submission for the UK’s upcoming third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the Human Rights Council in Geneva. This submission focuses on the continuing problem of violence against women with disabilities in the UK, as they face higher rates of sexual violence and experience domestic violence at twice the rate of other women. Women with disabilities are also less likely to have the economic independence to leave an abuser, have fewer accessible options for support services, and face increased barriers to accessing justice, due to disability-related stereotypes and denials of reasonable accommodation. The submission provides targeted questions and recommendations on these topics for states to utilize during the UK’s UPR, which will take place in April/May 2017.

    Read PDF WEI and SOF UK UPR Submission September 2016.pdf
    Read Word file WEI and SOF UK UPR Submission September 2016.docx

  3. WEI Submission to the CEDAW Committee on its update to its General Recommendation No. 19 on Violence Against Women by WEI, with sign on support from eight non-governmental organizations around the world.

    This submission was drafted by Women Enabled International (WEI) and is endorsed by: Advocacy for Women with Disabilities Initiative (AWWDI) (Nigeria); Association of Disabled Women, ONE.pl (Poland); CREA (India); Handicap International's Making It Work Initiative on Gender and Disability (France); Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) (Nigeria); National Union of Women with Disabilities of Uganda (NUWODU); Shanta Memorial Rehabilitation Centre (India); Sisters of Frida (United Kingdom); and Women with Disabilities India Network (WWDIN).

    Based on the specific issues that women with disabilities experience when exercising their right to be free from violence, this submission provides targeted comments to the CEDAW Committee on its Draft update to General Recommendation No. 19 (1992): accelerating elimination of gender-based violence against women. These comments focus both on how to more explicitly include women with disabilities in the draft and also how to ensure that the draft’s provisions adequately address the barriers and issues that women with disabilities disproportionately face when exercising their right to be free from violence. As such, this submission provides both suggested amendments to the current paragraphs of the draft General Recommendation and suggestions for additional paragraphs and sections to include in the draft.

    The amendments suggested in this submission are important for our work on the rights of women with disabilities for several reasons. Although many of the countries that have ratified CEDAW have also ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and the CRPD Committee recently issued a general comment on the rights of women and girls with disabilities that addresses gender-based violence, there is not a perfect overlap between states parties to the two conventions. Additionally, although the CRPD Committee has weighed in on many of the issues that lead to violence against women with disabilities—including denying them legal capacity and arbitrarily detaining them in institutions, based on disability—many states have not fully adopted the human rights-based approach to these issues and still allow, and frequently legally permit, these violations to take place. As the CEDAW Committee is the human rights leader in efforts to eliminate violence against women, many states and our organizations would benefit from the CEDAW Committee’s additional guidance on these issues. Finally, by ensuring that women with disabilities are better included in the updated General Recommendation No. 19, the CEDAW Committee will be recognizing the unique experiences of women with disabilities while also including them in the framework of women’s rights, helping to reduce stigma targeted at women with disabilities by ensuring that their experiences are no longer invisible and that they are fully recognized as women and as rights holders.

    Read PDF WEI CEDAW GR19 Update Submission September 30 2016.pdf
    Read Word file WEI CEDAW GR19 Update Submission September 30 2016.docx

  • September 2016 New publication on violence against children with disabilities
    Plan International has released new research on violence against children with disabilities and their access to protection. The study entitled “Protect us! Inclusion of children with disabilities in child protection” was conducted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. It documents the extremely high levels of school-based violence against children with disabilities and identifies important barriers within the child protection system which stop children with disabilities from reporting violence and getting support, and also offers recommendations. An accessible, executive summary and the full report is available for download at this link: http://plan-international.org/protect-us

  • Updated July 30, 2016  

    WEI President Stephanie Ortoleva expresses outrage over CRPD Committee elections - watch new video clip from the 9th Session of the Conference of States Parties to the CRPD.

    Women Enabled International statement on the CRPD Committee elections (originally posted June 16, 2016)

    Women enabled International is horrified about the results of the 9th Conference of States Parties election of the new members of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Not one woman was elected! We need the voices and experiences of women and girls with disabilities to be represented on this important Committee and, as studies worldwide have shown, electing women to office is the best way to ensure that our needs as disabled women and girls are addressed and effectively reflected in human rights law and international policy and development.

    infographic showing 17 people of one type and 1 of anotherWe must point out that the CRPD itself has clearly spoken on this issue: CRPD Article 34(4) states:

    4. The members of the Committee shall be elected by States Parties, consideration being given to equitable geographical distribution, representation of the different forms of civilization and of the principal legal systems, balanced gender representation and participation of experts with disabilities.

    We note that it was under the leadership of the six women who served on the CRPD Committee that a draft General Comment on CRPD Article 6 on Women was drafted and we passionately hope that it will be adopted in the July CRPD Committee session as clarity and guidance is needed on the understanding of this important CRPD provision.

    Women Enabled International President and Legal Director Stephanie Ortoleva Stated: "Where are the women? The lack of 'balanced gender representation' as required under CRPD Article 34(4) for the CRPD Committee is certainly a dark day for the rights of women and girls with disabilities. we must mobilize to ensure that the next election in 2018 is a gamechanger and results in even greater gender balance. The time to start organizing is NOW!"

    Watch the Women enabled International website and social media for further calls to action!

  • 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 .

    English WEI Talking Points Zika, Microcephaly, Womens Rights and Disability Rights PDF  |   Word docx file

    Espanol WEI Temas de debate: Zika, microcefalia, derechos de la mujer y derechos de las personas con discapacidad PDF    |   Word docx file

    Portuguese WEI Pontos de Discussão: Zika, Microcefalia, Direitos das Mulheres e Direitos das Pessoas com Deficiência PDF    |  Word docx file

  • May 15, 2016 Updated Aug 24, 2016 with audio from conference. WEI president Stephanie Ortoleva presents at global conference in Copenhagen on May 19, 2016.

    Women Deliver 4th Global Conference – Copenhagen, Denmark
    Sexual & Reproductive Health & Rights of Women with Disabilities
    Click here to listen to the audio for Women with Disabilities - Towards Inclusive Politics & Policies

    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


  • May 11, 2016 Women Enabled International President Stephanie Ortoleva was named one of Women's eNews' 21 Leaders for the 21st Century in 2016 — She Rises Up for Disabled Women and Girls!

    Women Enabled International's own President and Founder, Stephanie Ortoleva, was honored on May 2nd by Women’s eNews at their New York City Gala, as a leader for the 21st Century. During the event, Stephanie was recognized as a leader who "…has made it her mission to change the rules that constrict the lives of women and girls across the globe." Watch a short excerpt of Stephanie's acceptance speech from the gala here:


View more 2016 news

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Social Media & Press Relations Intern Fall 2016 & Spring 2017

Externally Funded Intl Legal Fellow Fall 2017

International Legal Interns Summer 2017



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