USICD Board Member Stephanie Ortoleva, President and Founder of Women Enabled International, has been named one of Women's E-News 21 Leaders 2016 for her advocacy work on behalf of women and girls with disabilities around the world.
Women's E-News wrote....
Stephanie Ortoleva, Esq.
By Eryn Mathewson
Stephanie Ortoleva jokes that she has never lost her vision because that would imply that she put it somewhere. She prefers to just describe the condition she has lived with since childhood as degenerative low vision.
This New York City native is not shy about the fact that she is blind. The prominent activist gives her age as somewhere between 18 and 80, though she says she acts like an 18-year-old most of the time. The purple streaks
in her hair are the proof.
Stephanie Ortoleva, Esq. is the founder and president of Women Enabled International, based in Washington, D.C. She and her staff work to advocate for the human rights of women and girls, especially those with disabilities. The team is developing projects that map and promote collaboration among women's rights and disability advocates, laying the groundwork for cross-cutting advocacy. " . . . there are many wonderful women who are activists with disabilities, and I wish all of my sisters would get powerful attention."
Her organization's work "has grown and strengthened human rights law, holding states accountable for their obligations to respect, protect, and fulfill the rights of women and girls with disabilities," Ortoleva said.
Fortunately, limited vision was not the only major development of Ortoleva's youth. It was around this time that the budding women's and disability rights activist was told that she was too opinionated and asked too many questions. Instead of interpreting these observations as insults, she saw them as good reasons to go to law school.
A degree from Hofstra University's progressive law school enabled her to become an international human rights lawyer. Her focus is on the intersectionality of women's rights, disability rights, gender-based violence and education for women and girls. Eventually, she consulted on these issues for governmental, non-governmental and international agencies, and she worked as a human rights lawyer with the U.S. State Department. She has led discussions at prominent forums like the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and she has critiqued these institutions on how well they accommodate participants with disabilities.
When she is not at the office, Ortoleva serves as a member of the American Bar Association Commission on Disability Rights. She is also on the boards of several other disability rights and women's rights groups. In her spare time, Ortoleva hangs out with her husband of over 30 years and her orchids.
Ortoleva is credited with bringing attention and resources to women's and disability rights, but she emphatically reminds supporters that "there are many wonderful women who are activists with disabilities, and I wish all of my sisters would get powerful attention."
Stephanie will be honored at the Women's E-News award ceremony on May 2, 2016 in New York City -- see their website for event details www.WomensENews.org