Disability and Gender Parity

Photo credit: Handicap International

The true passion of my life is working on behalf of people with disabilities and ensuring their basic human rights are observed and respected. Whether this means working to improve access to wheelchair services, quality education, or equal opportunity employment, I constantly strive to fill the gaps and provide opportunity.

In June of this year, I was given the opportunity to speak at the Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) at the UN. It was an incredible experience and I was also able to witness the election of the new committee for the treaty. In a remarkable sequence of events, a man on the autism spectrum was elected to serve. For the first time in the history of the treaty (and to my knowledge, any UN treaty), a person with a disability can now serve as a voice of direction on the committee. However, that is where the good news ends.

Out of an 18 person committee, only one woman was elected to the committee. This is absolutely unacceptable and is a disservice to every woman and girl with a disability around the world. Already being marginalized just for having a disability, women with disabilities are at higher risk for sexual assault, less likely to have access to education, less likely to have access to healthcare, and more likely to be killed as an infant or toddler by a family or community member. While the 17 men on the committee are probably aware of these issues, women and girls with disabilities around the world must have better representation. This is the only way effective change can be made.

Photo credit: KairosPhotos

Today, I ask that you read and sign the call to action to promote gender parity within the CRPD Committee and across all treaty bodies, other international bodies and tribunals, and regional and international organizations. Let us all work to ensure women and girls with disabilities around the world have the voice and representation that they deserve.

Who run the world? Girls.

Photo credit: AFP Photo/Shah Marai