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 Announced!


A woman draws a network on a global map.
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 to view project details and the mapping project report.

Recent News Items
  • 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 WEI president Stephanie Ortoleva to present at global conference in Copenhagen on May 19.

    Sexual & Reproductive Health & Rights of Women with Disabilities
    Women Deliver 4th Global Conference – Copenhagen, Denmark

    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:

  • May 10, 2016 Together with the Human Rights and Gender Justice Clinic at CUNY School of Law, Women Enabled International submitted this amicus brief in the case of I.V. v. Bolivia, before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. I.V., a Peruvian political refugee, was forcibly sterilized during a cesarean section in 2000. This case marks the first time that the Inter-American Court will consider the human rights implications of sterilization without consent, a practice that is disproportionately perpetrated against women who encounter high rates of stigma, such as women living with HIV, poor women, ethnic or national minorities or women with disabilities because some health care providers believe that these women should not have children or that they are unable to make reproductive decisions on their own behalf. Our amicus brief emphasizes the severe physical and mental harms that forced sterilization imposes on women—16 years after her sterilization, I.V. still acutely feels the emotional and psychological toll of having been sterilized without her consent—and analyzes prevailing international standards to demonstrate that forced sterilization is a form of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment and, in some cases, may amount to torture. We urge the Inter-American Court to join U.N. and European human rights experts in recognizing the gravity of this human rights violation.
  • January 2016 Women Enabled International founder and president Stephanie Ortoleva was named one of Women's E-News 21 Leaders of 2016. Read more.

  • January 2016 The Right to Adequate Housing for Persons with Disabilities Living in Cities – Urban Women with Disabilities
    As established in international law and the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, it is necessary to pay attention to the rights and needs of persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities are disproportionately represented in the poorest quintile of the population, and face additional challenges due to discriminatory laws and policies, environmental barriers, and lack of support services that would enable the enjoyment of the right to adequate housing on an equal basis with others. This study reviews the literature on the meaning and impact of the right to adequate housing for persons with disabilities in cities. It uses the foundational framework of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and demonstrates how the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) provides a new understanding of this complex right. The authors link the right to adequate housing not only to other international treaties, but also to the diverse groups of individuals who are persons with disabilities and the complexity of the identities involved. They outline major types of barriers that persons with disabilities encounter (physical inaccessibility, lack of access to transportation services, insecurity of tenure, among others), and identify trends in relation to policy and legal framework and national and sub-national solutions to the realization of the rights of persons with disabilities. The report takes a human rights-based approach to development of human settlements that offer equal opportunities to persons with disabilities. The report offers three case studies that highlight some good practices and topics worthy of further inquiry. Read more.
  • January 2016 WEI CSW60 Side Panel Announced. Sustainable Development Goals or Sidelining Disabled Girls?: Making SDGs Stand for All Women and Girls March 17, 2016 Read more.
  • 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

  • July 26, 2015 WEI's submission to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities draft General Comment on Article 6 on women, raising the myriad human rights issues raised by the multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination that women with disabilities encounter, focusing on gender-based violence as a pernicious manifestation of such discrimination, noting that women with disabilities experience gender-based violence at a magnitude greater than women without disabilities, and women with disabilities face numerous barriers to ending the cycle of violence and accessing justice, WEI clarifies States' due diligence obligations with respect to gender-based violence committed against women with disabilities by both state and private actors and provides an overview of barriers that women with disabilities face in accessing justice and identifies States' obligations to respond to such violence, and then WEI concludes with recommendations for strengthening the language of the draft General Comment to provide greater clarity on these obligations.

    Read WEI's submission in MS Word
    Read WEI's submission in PDF
    Read the CRPD Committee's Draft General Comment
  • July 16, 2015. On July 16, 2015, the International Human Rights Funders Group and the Foundation Center released the latest data on the state of global human rights grantmaking. Regretably, the Report found the amount of funding focused on disability issues went down as a percentage of the total, from 4% in 2014 of 2011 foundation grant dollars data to 3% or in the new 2015 report of 2012 data totaling $1.8 Billion from 744 foundations worldwide. Although the amount for disability rights went up from $40 million to $53.8 million in the new report, the share for disability issues went down from 4% to only a devastating and abysmal low of a mere 3%. Find the report here: http://humanrights.foundationcenter.org/key-findings/

    To accompany the release of this data, Diana Samarasan was asked to write a blog on funding for disability issues. She concludes her blog by saying: "...I call on human rights grantmakers to consider an inclusive approach that recognizes all. It is no longer enough to recognize that there's a gap; it is time to start doing something about it."

    Find the blog here: http://pndblog.typepad.com/pndblog/2015/07/being-counted-funding-for-people-with-disabilities.html
  • July 4, 2015 Women Enabled International made this submission to inform the drafting of a general comment on the right to life (article 6) under the UN Convention on Civil and Political Rights by the U.N. Human Rights Committee. This submission urges the Committee to take into account the specific risks to the right to life of women and girls, and particularly women and girls with disabilities, as a result of pregnancy and childbirth. In particular, the submission argues that access to a full range of sexual and reproductive health care is essential to protecting women's right to life and that the right to life includes an implicit right to live with dignity.The submission also urges the Committee to uphold its existing jurisprudence and ensure consistency with prevailing international human rights standards by making clear that the right to life accrues at birth and not prenatally. Read WEI's submission here:

    Women Enabled International ICCPR Article 6 Submission on Right to Life and Women (PDF).

    Women Enabled International ICCPR Article 6 Submission on Right to Life and Women (Word docx).

  • The UN Human Rights Committee is preparing a General Comment on the "Right to life" (article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)). They invited written contributions and will hold a Half-day General Discussion on 14 July 2015.

    Invitation for written contributions on the "Right to Life" article 6 of the ICCPR web page

    Invitation for written contributions on the "Right to Life" article 6 of the ICCPR (PDF)

    Invitation for written contributions on the "Right to Life" article 6 of the ICCPR (Word docx)

    The Committee has adopted a note on the General Comment outlining its likely scope:

    Read the CCPR Article 6 Right to Life Concept Paper (PDF)

    Read the CCPR Article 6 Right to Life Concept Paper (Word doc)


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