Ana lends her voice to the 600 million disabled girls and women in the world. Photo: La ONCE

Ana Peláez, a voice for disabled women

Peláez has submitted her candidacy to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. She can become the first disabled woman on the committee.

Ana Peláez Narváez (Zafra, Badajoz, 1966) has been fighting for the recognition and full social integration of disabled women all her life. Born blind, she holds degrees in Education Sciences and Psychology from the University of Seville, and she lends her voice to the 600 million disabled girls and women in the world.

From 2009 to 2016, she was a member of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Now, she has submitted her candidacy for the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee) 2019-2022.

Elections to the CEDAW Committee will be held at the United Nations headquarters in New York on 7 June 2018. Should Ana be elected, she would become the first disabled person to join the committee. In support of her campaign, she has launched a website and a social media hashtag: #disabilityforCEDAW.

- What are your plans at the CEDAW Committee?

- My primary goal is to draw attention to the situation of disabled girls and women in the CEDAW Working Group. According to UN Women, disabled women make one fifth of the global female population. However, they are not targeted by general disability policies or by gender equality or women’s initiatives.

Secondly, I would like to associate the work done by the CEDAW Committee to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular to Goal 5: Gender Equality.

I could share my eight-year experience at the UN CRPD in connection with multiple discrimination, supporting the CEDAW Committee on issues of women at risk of social exclusion.

My fourth goal is related to achieving greater coherence across human rights treaty bodies, which tend to operate separately, without much coordination between them.

Last but not least, I would like to see the diversity of mankind mirrored in the composition of treaty bodies and committees. And this means, of course, including people with disabilities.

- Women make 60% of the global disabled population. They are the victims of multiple discrimination, as women and disabled persons.

- These are cross-cutting forms of social exclusion. As a disabled woman, you are at risk of other forms of exclusion: poverty, no access to justice, no community services…

- How can we change this? How can we improve the lives of disabled women?

- At the UN CRPD we asked for the inclusion of disability in gender equality policies or initiatives to stop violence against women. Conversely, we strove to ensure that gender was present in disability policies.

We need programmes and activities to empower disabled women. With a global population of 600 million, disabled women and girls can only rely on 20 international organisations. This is outrageous.

- The year 2019 marks the 40th anniversary of the signature of Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). However, there have been no disabled women in the CEDAW Committee so far. You would be the first one…

- In fact, there have been no disabled persons in the committee, neither women nor men. Disabilities are still a marginal issue on the United Nations agenda, relegated to the CRPD. No disabled person has held a position in a UN human rights treaty body other than the CRPD so far.

So becoming a member of the CEDAW Committee would be a breakthrough, especially in such an important year. I can think of no better way of celebrating the recognition and inclusion of disabled women and girls. In line with this, we are using the slogan, ‘A voice for disability in CEDAW’.

- At the CEDAW Committee, you would be the representative of Spain and the International Disability Alliance as well.

- That is right. The International Disability Alliance protects the rights of 1000 million disabled people. We are working together on this, but we cannot succeed without support from the civil society.

Also, an increasing number of women’s movements are joining us, supporting me in my desperate cry for the rights of disabled girls and women around the world. We want to be taken for what we are: women. The world tends to perceive us as disabled persons first, and this strips us of our gender identity.

- Your being elected would mean that other women from groups that are the target of multiple discrimination could come after you…

- Exactly, and this is very important to me. Every day I strive to include everyone, to leave no-one behind. And so I am aware of social exclusion and vulnerability, of those minorities no-one talks about or whose needs are not taken into account.

- In Spain we have ONCE, an organisation for the integration of persons with disabilities, which you have strong ties to.

- I am Executive Advisor on International Relations and International Expansion at ONCE. I am very proud of being part of an organisation with international recognition for its commitment to the integration of disabled people.

ONCE successfully fights for inclusive education in Spain, integrating almost 100% of Spanish visually impaired children to the educational system. For this, it has received worldwide attention.

Moreover, the corporate structure at ONCE has led to the development of a robust training and employment model that takes people at a disadvantage into account. Governments, civil society organisations and companies come to ONCE to learn about this model.

And we also have CERMI, the Spanish Committee of Representatives of Persons with Disabilities, which is also highly valued abroad. Thanks to their harmonious efforts, the organisations that make CERMI have helped develop advanced public policies over the past 20 years.