A European Network of Women with Disabilities!
2nd-4th May 2007 in Berlin, Germany
A Conference from Weibernetz e.V. in Cooperation with Disabled Peoples’ International and International Training Advice Research
Welcome address for the conference
"A network of disabled women in Europe"
Held in Berlin from 2 to 4 May 2007
by Dinah Radtke
Vice- Chair of Disabled Peoples’ International (DPI) and
Chair of DPI's Women's Committee
I am very pleased to have the opportunity today to address this conference on behalf of Disabled Peoples’ International. I am particularly happy about the fact that the movement of girls and women with disabilities is growing and becoming more significant.
I myself have been working for the disability movement and the independent living movement.
I am particularly keen on raising the profile of disabled women in politics and in society, and on fighting for our rights.
This naturally has a lot to do with my own personal history. My mother was ashamed of having two disabled daughters. Additionally, girls were considered to be inferior beings in my family.
My own pride has always rebelled against such attitudes. I became active in analysing the discrimination faced by disabled people. In the late seventies, I started to run women's discussion groups. In the beginning, we talked about issues relating to aesthetics and our bodies, then other topics such as sexualised violence, personal assistance, bioethics, etc. came up for discussion.
What bothered me about the disability movement was that disabled men were just taken more seriously, and I felt this was unfair. For me, equality is really important. It is crucial that there is equal representation on the committees and organisations and that it's not just the men who are always in the forefront. I want women to have equal opportunities. It is equally important that disabled women take other disabled women by the hand, support, strengthen and empower them, so that they can gain the confidence to take on responsibility.
I have always been actively promoting that we as disabled women are being taken seriously and that our rights, our human rights, are being respected. At the same time, it is crucial that disabled women know their rights and that they can develop strategies to help them exercise their rights.
What is the best way to pass on our knowledge? The best way is networking.
Without tireless campaigning and lobbying by disabled people's networks, especially those of disabled women, we would not have achieved the political changes which have happened over the last few years. We are very proud of the changes we have achieved up to now, even though it has always involved some tenacious struggles. The organisation Disabled Peoples’ International which I am representing here is also a network. It is a human rights organisation and it represents the interests of all people with disabilities.
DPI also has a worldwide women's committee. All of our five regions in the world, as well as many of our 140 member countries, have women's committees. The main
aim of the women's committee is to provide a forum for disabled women where they can share their views and work proactively. We want to ensure that disabled women have equal participation in society and that they are also treated equally within DPI.
The most significant success of the international disability movement, on our long route towards the realisation of our human rights, has, of course, been the convention on the rights of disabled people. The signing ceremony took place in March of this year. We, as women with disabilities, must now ensure that our respective countries will ratify and implement the convention, and that they also, if not already done so, sign the "optional Protocol". This is important as the convention must become legally binding.
DPI provides the appropriate campaigning tools on its website. There is a ratification toolkit and an implementation toolkit. I would encourage you to download these practical toolkits from the homepage so that you can work with them. The web address is: www.dpi.org.
As Chair of DPI's women's committee, I am very pleased about the forming of a European network of disabled women. It is important to co-operate with all women's networks. We are combining all of our energies and will thereby strengthen our lobby work.
Let us fight together for better living conditions for women and girls with disabilities. We need equal chances, equal opportunities. The human rights are our human rights too. We want to empower and support each other. We want to speak with one voice, for together we are strong!