Disabled Women: Visions and Voices

(Open captioned)

Speaker: [Spanish] Nosotras somos mujeres eguales.

Speaker: We are women like you.

Speaker: [Spanish] Sentimos, pensamos.

Speaker: We feel, we think.

Speaker: [Spanish] La differencia es on ver, no caminar y no hablar.

Speaker: The only difference is that we don't see or we don't walk or we don't talk.

Speaker: [Spanish] Pero nosotras tenemos que estar aqui con los mismos derechos.

Speaker: But we, like you, have the same rights.

Speaker: [Spanish] Exigimos accesso.

Speaker: We want access!


Speaker: "Disabled Women, Visions and Voices," from the Fourth World Conference on Women.

Narrator: In September 1995, the Fourth World Conference on Women and N.G.O. Forum were held in Beijing, China. For the first time, women with disabilities had a strong, organized presence. This was due to ten months of hard work by disabled women and several international disability rights groups.

They held the first International Symposium on Issues of Women with Disabilities in Beijing the day before the N.G.O. Forum began. Two hundred disabled women representing 25 countries came to China. Susan Sygall was one of the organizers.

Susan Sygall: I know I join many of you who have always dreamed of a meeting where women with disabilities and their allies from all over the world would gather together to ensure that women with disabilities will be represented at the U.N. Conference on Women.

[Light Applause]

Susan: We will achieve our rights and the respect we deserve as women with disabilities.

Narrator: The Platform for Action is a document produced by the U.N. Conference on Women. It is an agreed-upon guideline for governments, organizations and individuals on improving the lives of women in 12 areas of concern, such as health, education and employment. It is drafted in meetings held during the year prior to the conference. Because the issues of women with disabilities have often been excluded, the goal this year was to make sure that the concerns of disabled women were addressed.

Speaker: A disability can be endured but the lack of human rights, the deprivation of equal opportunities and the institutional discrimination cannot be endured and should not be tolerated.

Narrator: At the Symposium, women developed policy statements that they wanted to communicate to the nearly 25,000 nondisabled women and to the media at the N.G.O. Forum and U.N. conference.

Speaker: Disabled girls are, in fact, girls, and they have hopes, dreams, voices and issues like their nondisabled sisters. Disabled girls are entitled to become strong, healthy, proud disabled women.

Speaker: Disabled women have the right to be parents.

Meenu: My name is Meenu Sikand. I'm from Canada. All income generated and projects for the economic development of women should be accessible and available to women with disabilities.

Speaker: No woman or anyone who attends this conference should be able to leave Beijing without thinking about the rights of women with disabilities.


[Singing] Going to keep on moving forward, Keep on moving forward.

Narrator: Thousands of women filled the Workers' Stadium in Beijing for the opening ceremonies of the N.G.O. Forum. There was an atmosphere of solidarity in the realization that so many women from all over the world had come to China, many under difficult circumstances.

[Singing] Never turning back.

Narrator: In the months prior to the conference, disabled women in the U.S. and internationally lobbied conference organizers to ensure that the site and workshops would be accessible to women with all types of disabilities. Despite their efforts, physical and communication access was a major problem.

Speaker: I want to say an example. In the morning, there was something about Latin America. I was very interested in being there. It was in the fourth floor. Some people arrived and they would carry me. That is very dangerous.

Speaker: I'm a deaf person. People stand up and speak and there is no translation for us. We're deaf people and we need to talk to the others.

Narrator: Conference materials were not provided in alternative formats such as Braille, tape and large print for women who are blind, low vision or dyslexic. The disability tent was placed in a remote location of the site and was difficult to reach because of mud and rocks.

Disabled women held demonstrations to protest the lack of access. It was the first time at the conference that a group held a protest outside the designated demonstration area.

Speaker: Nothing about us without us. We don't want positions to be taken on our behalf. We want to contribute to a full position equally, and we don't want to be sidelined or marginalized anymore.

Speaker: We need to discuss the fact that education for disabled girls is almost impossible to get in almost every country of the world. We need to discuss the fact that disabled women are victims of violence at much higher rates than nondisabled women.

We need to discuss women's issues and how disabled women's issues are women's issues. And we need to discuss that together. We need to sit down in solidarity as sisters to discuss this. We are not here to talk about just the ramps. We are here to discuss the problems of disabled women and how, together, together as sisters, we can solve this.

Narrator: The protests were effective. While not all demands were met, the tent was moved to a more accessible location. Ramps were built and some workshops were moved. The protest also raised awareness for all participants.

In acknowledgment of disabled women's struggles, Madeline Albright, United States Ambassador to the U.N., gave her internationally broadcast speech in the disability tent.

The N.G.O. Forum was successful in providing an opportunity for disabled women to discover each other, form alliances with nondisabled women and plan for actions in the future. The stories and papers presented highlighted both the common interests and the diversity of women with disabilities.

In Japan, disabled women are fighting the Eugenic Protection Law which tries to prohibit the birth of children with disabilities through selective abortion. People with disabilities are sometimes forced to undergo sterilization to prevent them from having children.

Speaker: When I found out this law, when I was 20 years old, my friend told me this is a terrible law which discriminates against people with disabilities. But at the time, I couldn't really understand why it is, and at the time, I thought I was inferior to the people who – without disabilities, and I was trying to catch up with the people – so-called normal people.

I remember saying to my friends, of course, the people with disabilities, they shouldn't be born because they have disabilities. And the time I got I made friends with Ulala, she's C.P., as well, she told me that I wasn't wrong as I was. Meeting her, meeting Ulala, that is – that has changed me to think that it's okay to be myself and follow my pace.

And after that, I start thinking right. Something's wrong with the Eugenics Protection Law, that I have to do something about it.

Naomi: My name's Naomi Ruth Esiaba. My talk this afternoon is going to be on power and decision making in relation to the disabled woman. In most cases, it's going to be the African situation or the Kenyan situation, because as much as our problems are the same, we have also different problems and priorities.

Jene: My name is Jene McCovey. I'm an American Indian. I'm very proud of who I am. We have the ADA code, the American Disability Act, but this law is a United States code and does not apply to the reservations.

Speaker: [Spanish] En este momenta me toca compartir con ustedes...

Speaker: I today will talk about the movement of women with disabilities. Our movement in Nicaragua started in 1993 with a group of 13 people who were affected for local anesthesia. By that time, people said that we were crazy women and that we weren't able to do anything. But one year after, we were 50 women together, and we were able to have our voice in the parliament.

That's why I am one of the persons who believe that we must change the society. We have to say that this is our right that we have like human beings.

Narrator: At the U.N. conference, women with disabilities were successful in influencing the language of the Platform for Action. The document stressed the need to eliminate barriers in the areas of education, employment, health, social services, and information.

From the conference in Beijing, women with disabilities took home the realization that they are not alone in their struggle to advance human rights, that they can work together to make a better world for all women and all disabled people.

[Singing in background] Keep on walking proudly.

Narrator: Produced and directed by Suzanne C. Levine and Patricia Chadwick.

[ Singing in background ] Never turning back.

Editing,Roxanne Bruns. Sound recording, Patricia Chadwick.

[ Singing in background ] Never turning back.

Still photography, Suzanne C. Levine. IMC operator, Patrick Campbell.

[ Singing in background ] Going to keep on singing loudly.

Additional images, Cathy Cade, 200 Women.

[ Singing in background ] Keep on singing loudly.

Maria-Luiza Aboim, protest videos. Mary Lee Turner, Broken Pathways. Many thanks.

[ Singing in background ] Keep on singing loudly.

Narration, Patricia Chadwick. Music, "Never Turning Back," written and performed by Pat Humphries.

[ Singing in background ] Never turning back.

Voices of women. Saud Marcos, Nicaraugua;

[ Singing in background ] Going to keep on loving boldly.

Interpretation by Alicia Contreras. Susan Sygall, United States. Lucy Hernandez Wong, United States. Harilyn Russo, United States.

[ Singing in background ] Keep on loving boldly.

Narrator: Judi Rogers, United States. Meenu Sikand, Canada. Alicia Contreras, Mexico

[ Singing in background ] Never turning back.

Cathy Haas, United States; Interpretation by Jadine Murello. Maria Rantho, South Africa.

[ Singing in background ] Going to reach across our borders.

Corbett O'Toole, United States. Aiko Tsutsumi, Japan. Naomi Ruth Esiaaba, Kenya. Jene McCovey, United States. Petrona Sandoval, Nicaragua.

[ Singing in background ] Never turning back.

Narrator: This video was made possible by funding from Mobility International, USA.

[ Singing in background ] Going to keep on moving forward.

MIUSA's contribution to this project is supported by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, (NIDRR), through the International Disability Exchanges and Studies, (IDEAS),

[ Singing in background ] Keep on moving forward.

Project 2000. Thank you.

[ Singing in background ] Never turning back.

Travel and pre-production partially funded by Disabled Women's Alliance, USA

[ Singing in background ] Going to keep on walking proudly.

Post-production donated by Video Arts, San Francisco, California. Their contributions were considerable factors in making this video possible.

[ Singing in background ] Keep on walking proudly.

Special thanks to Maria Luisa Aboim, Cindy Lewis, Kathy Martinez, Corbett O'Toole, Mary Scott, Miriam Telles.

[ Singing in background ] Never turning back.

Due to the limited length of this video, we could not include everything we wanted. Please, read the insert for additional important information.

[ Singing in background ] Going to keep on singing loudly.

Narrator: Copyright 1996, Wide Vision Productions, P.O. Box 22115, San Francisco, California, 9422-0115, USA. "Disabled Women, Visions and Voices," from The Fourth World Conference On Women.

[ Singing in background ] Never turning back.