B95: International Leadership Forum for Women with Disabilit

Susan S. Klein (sklein@hermesnet.net)
7/10/97 5:35 PM

>Crossposted from ABIGAILS-L
> jfa@mailbot.com
>International Leadership Forum for Women with Disabilities
>Congratulations to the planners and participants in the International
>Leadership Forum for Women with Disabilities held last week in Bethesda,
>Maryland. The forum focused on how to improve the lives of women with
>disabilities. It spotlighted hardships that disabled women face
>worldwide and solutions for bettering their quality of life.
>Workshops covered such topics as reproductive issues, parenting concerns,
>sexuality, income generation, community organizing, message development
>and job creation.
>Thanks to Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright for her great speech
>before the Forum (excerpts below).
>Congratulations to Judy Heumann, OSERS Assistant Secretary and Susan
>Daniels, SSA Assistant Commissioner, for their leadership that brought
>together 500 women with disabilities from 80 countries!
>Congratulations to HHS Secretary, Donna Shalala, ED Secretary Dick Riley,
>Kate Seelman (NIDRR), and the many individuals and agencies that
>contributed to the success of the meeting.
>Special recognition goes to Kathy Martinez, the World Institute on
>Disability, who served as Forum Director, to Rosangela Berman-Bieler,
>Event Coordinator, and to the
>Organizing Committee, including Peggy McLeod (OSERS), Barbara Duncan
>(Rehabilitation International), Ilene Zeitzer (SSA), Paul Ackerman
>(NIDR), Susan Sygall (Mobility International). Thanks also to Lucy
>Hernandez-Wong from Disabled People's Imternational.
>Here is Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's address to the conference:
>"Thank you, very much, Judy. It is always a pleasure to be with you
>anywhere. Your leadership is just amazing, and we all appreciate it so
>Secretary Shalala, it's always good to appear with you. As a member of
>the delegation to Beijing and President Clinton's interagency council,
>and as a driving force behind this conference, Judy, you have been a
>source of leadership and strength to us all.
>I say to you, and to Kathy Martinez and to all of you that I am truly
>delighted to participate in this conference as at least a partial payback
>for the hospitality that you all gave me in Huairou. For me, speaking at
>the disabilities tent was the high point of the whole Beijing experience.
>It was what the women's conference was all about--commitment,
>empowerment, access, unity--not to mention rain.
>Today, we meet in better weather, but in the same spirit and with the
>same fundamental message.
>All women, whether we have disabilities or whether we do not, are ready
>to claim our rightful place as full citizens and full participants in
>every society on Earth.
>Ours is a unifying vision, based on the truth that in our era, security,
>prosperity and freedom are not finite, nor are they the rightful property
>only of some people in some places.
>If we plant the seeds and till the soil, those precious commodities will
>grow. And more and more people in more and more countries will become
>beneficiaries and contributors to our global community.
>To that end, I am very encouraged by the work the organizations
>sponsoring and participating in this conference have done and are doing
>to advocate, educate and lead. You are doing an outstanding and important
>job. But as I am sure you agree, there is a very long, long way to go.
>There are more than three hundred million women with disabilities in the
>world. In many societies, they are consigned to the margins--not admitted
>to schools, rejected by employers, denied access to health care. We
>cannot afford this loss. We need your strength and skills. If we are to
>build the kind of future we want, women with disabilities cannot be
>marginalized, women and girls with disabilities must be empowered.
>This morning at this historic conference, I assure you that I will do
>everything I can to see that America does its part in advancing our
>common agenda. First, closest to home, I want to see a State Department
>and foreign service that is truly open to the talents of all.
>Spurred on by Deidre Davis, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State of
>our office on Civil Rights, we have eliminated barriers to full
>participation. I have been told that a record number of individuals with
>disabilities took our foreign service exam last November, and that 146
>I look forward to many of them joining the foreign service, and I
>encourage any of you who are eligible and looking for an interesting
>change in career to consider taking the exam, as well.
>Second, as a matter of policy, the United States can and will be telling
>the story worldwide about what we have been able to do here through our
>knowledge of rehabilitation, the strength of our civic organizations, the
>liberating nature of our technology and the justice of laws such as
>Americans with Disabilities Act. After all, if we Americans can export
>our strategies for selling hamburgers -- surely we can export our
>strategies for meeting the needs and benefiting from the skills and
>strengths of persons with disabilities.
>Third, the connections between poverty and disability, between maternal
>health care and preventing disability, and between community-based
>rehabilitation and independence for disabled persons are not widely
>understood. But there are many who do understand at USAID, in the Peace
>Corps, in UN organizations and programs and in the PVOs that support
>economic and social development worldwide. Their challenge is finding the
>resources they need to keep us all moving forward.
>As Secretary of State - I hate to tell you this -- I don't have a blank
>checkbook, but I do have a bully pulpit. I will do my absolute best to
>make the case on Capitol Hill and around America that by helping these
>organizations, we give a hand to friends everywhere, we honor our values
>and help secure our own future.
>Fourth, we have the problem of landmines. We must do more to cleanse the
>Earth of their pernicious presence.
>We must do more to rehabilitate and provide for full entry into society
>of the victims. And we must negotiate an agreement that will end forever
>the danger landmines present to women and children around the globe.
>As long as I live, I will never forget my trip to Angola. I don't think
>I've ever seen so many injured people as I have in Angola. And when I
>went there, out into the villages, to see children tethered to their
>houses so that they would not escape into the fields to get blown up by
>landmines. Landmines are a scourge, and we call on all of you to help us
>in this very, very important issue.
>Fifth, here in the United States, our top priority in implementing
>Beijing has been to halt violence against women. That is also a goal of
>American foreign policy; because the truth is that today, around the
>world, appalling abuses are being committed against women and women with
>disabilities. These abuses range from domestic violence to dowry murders
>to mutilation to forcing young girls into prostitution. Some say all this
>is cultural and there's nothing that can be done about it. I say it's
>criminal and we each have a responsibility to stop it.
>Finally, I will say to you now what I said to you in Huairou. It is past
>time -- way past time -- for the United States to ratify the Convention
>on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
>Here in the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act has made
>us a leader in promoting full participation by persons with disabilities.
>But a year ago, when the National Council on Disability issued a report
>asking whether our foreign policy had a coherent approach to disability,
>the answer was no. This is not an acceptable answer and, fortunately, it
>is not an answer that will remain accurate for very long.
>Within a matter of weeks, USAID will be issuing a new policy and action
>plan on disability and development. That document will express the
>agency's commitment to reach out and include persons with disabilities in
>its programs and place this issue prominently on our development agenda
>with governments that receive our aid.
>The new policy is based on a recognition that people with disabilities
>have the same need for food, health care, shelter, education and training
>as others, but are often denied access to programs that meet these needs.
>The solution is greater foresight, wider consultation and better
>planning. There is no reason on Earth, for example, why a child with
>disabilities should not be able to sit in the same classroom, learn the
>same skills and dream the same dreams as her or his fellow students.
>There is no reason on Earth why an adult with disabilities should not
>receive the same help in starting a small business or learning a trade.
>There can be no excuse for failing to take access into account when
>constructing shelter or designing a community center or developing a
>source of potable water. The lesson we should all have learned by now is
>that the best way to prevent barriers to access is not to erect them in
>the first place.
>In this connection, let me say it to you before you say it me. Far too
>many U.S. embassies remain insufficiently accessible to persons with
>I have asked our Office of Civil Rights and our Office of Foreign
>Buildings to produce a plan to correct that wherever we can as soon as we
>can. And I can promise that when the U.S. Government builds a building
>overseas, that building had better be accessible to someone, or they will
>owe an explanation to me as Secretary of State.
>Since Beijing, we have moved forward and we will continue to move forward
>as long as conferences such as this and people such as you continue to
>reach out to each other and to challenge societies and governments to do
>the right thing. That is your job. It is the job of governments to create
>a basis in law and in the community to remove obstacles to the full
>participation of women and of persons with disabilities in the economic
>and social life of their nations.
>At this conference's center, and at the heart of the disability agenda,
>is the simple premise that every individual counts. That is the
>philosophy of America at its best. And that has been the motivating force
>for the movement to advance the status of women and women with
>disabilities for longer than any of us have been alive.
>This philosophy is not based on any illusions. Advocates of social
>progress have seen far too much of hardship and heartbreak to indulge in
>sentimentalism. But we live in a nation and a world that has been
>enriched beyond measure by the survivors, by those who have overcome
>obstacles to build platforms of knowledge, understanding and
>accomplishment from which others might advance.
>It has been said that all work that it is worth anything is done in
>faith. While respecting our diversity and building our unity, let us all
>keep the faith that our persistence and dedication will make a
>difference; that every friend transformed by our caring, every life
>enriched by our giving, every soul inspired by our passion and every
>barrier to justice brought down by our determination will ennoble our own
>lives, inspire others and explode outward the boundaries of what is
>achievable on this Earth.
>Towards that end, for all you have done, I salute you. For all that you
>will do, I admire you. And for your attention and kindness this morning,
>I thank you very, very much. Thank you all. Thank you. Have a really
>successful conference. Thank you."
>Fred Fay
>Justice For All Moderator

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