Press Release: Today is an important day for persons with disabilities: The new SR on the rights of PWDs addresses the HRC

March 13, 2015



“Today is an important day for persons with disabilities” 

- Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at the Human Rights Council


Today, Ms. Catalina Devandas, Special Rapporteur (SR) on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and former Program Officer of the Disability Rights Fund (DRF) and the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund (DRAF), addressed the Human Rights Council, outlining her mandate and scope of work. “Today is an important day for persons with disabilities. For the very first time (emphasis added), this Council is receiving a report from a Special Rapporteur specifically concerned with their rights. I think I can speak on behalf of the community of persons with disabilities when I say that we welcome the establishment of this mandate as acknowledgement of the efforts to place disability on the human rights agenda.” 


Emphasizing the breadth and importance of the mandate of this first SR on disability under the Council, Catalina spoke about three priority areas, bringing together the “most urgent challenges faced by our community”: (1) citizenship, addressing participation of persons with disabilities in all decision-making processes that affect their lives, including the “full recognition of their legal capacity, right to freedom and security of person, right to live independently and be included in community, and the right to political participation,” (2) poverty reduction, “address[ing] the reasons why our group are disproportionately represented in poor and extremely poor sectors of the population,” including social protection, equal access to education and employment, and efforts to ensure an inclusive post-2015, and (3) changes in perceptions of persons with disabilities, addressing the stigma and discrimination which keeps persons with disabilities viewed “from a medicalized and charitable standpoint,” rather than as equal human beings.  


Following International Women’s Day and as meetings of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) get underway, Catalina also underlined the rights of women and girls with disabilities as a leitmotif in her work. 


The Funds are extremely proud of Catalina and underline the importance of this day in the evolution of human rights. For too long, the rights of people with disabilities, including women with disabilities, have been neglected, even by human rights actors and funders. This is reflected in the mere 4% of funding provided for disability within global human rights grantmaking. We use this day to call for increased integration by fellow human rights funders, including women’s rights funders, of a disability perspective in their work. As the director of WomenEnabled, Stephanie Ortoleva, put it, “women with disabilities are women too - we will not be forgotten sisters in the dialogue.”