Ghanaian disability activist wins first ever ‘Ladies’s Empowerment Award’ at World Blind Summit

The Ghanaian women’s rights activist Gertrude Oforiwa Fefoame has won a high-level international award for the empowerment of women in recognition of her lifelong commitment to the rights of women and girls with disabilities.

The Women’s Empowerment Award will be presented at the World Blindness Summit 2021 to a blind or visually impaired woman who has made a significant and outstanding contribution to the empowerment of other women.

Gertrude, currently advocacy advisor on social inclusion at the international NGO Sightsavers, has campaigned for the rights of women and girls with disabilities for the last forty years of her life. She was an important voice in the work to secure the rights of women with disabilities at the United Nations and changed the course of disability rights in Ghana and Africa.

She said, “I am overwhelmed with the joy of receiving this great honor. I would not have come this far without the support of my family, friends and colleagues. I am particularly grateful to the many disability organizations I have worked with in Ghana and internationally, as well as Sightsavers, for their phenomenal support.

“I dedicate this award to all blind and visually impaired women and girls who work on the grassroots to bring about change, and to all women and girls with disabilities who have accompanied me in my endeavors over the years”.

Andrew Griffiths, Head of Advocacy at Sightsavers, said, “I am delighted that Gertrude has received the World Blind Union’s Women’s Empowerment Award. Gertrude fully deserves this award and the associated recognition through her tireless commitment to the rights of women and girls with disabilities, including as a member of the UNCRPD committee. It is a privilege to work with her at Sightsavers. “

Gertrude began to lose her sight at the age of ten and was discriminated against with disabilities from a young age. She has worked for decades to combat the stigma and denial of rights of people with disabilities, especially women and girls. In 2018 she was elected to the committee that oversees the UN Disability Rights Convention (UNCRPD) and has largely contributed to its implementation.

She made sure that the consideration of women with disabilities was included in key global policies, from the development of the Africa Protocol on disability to the ratification of the Marrakech Treaty. Gertrude was also recognized for the time she spent supporting and caring for younger women with disabilities.

Nominated by the Ghana Federation of Disability Organizations, Gertrude was selected in the nomination process by the Women’s Leadership Committee of the World Blind Union (WBU).

Last month the World Blindness Summit 2021 took place in Madrid, Spain [2] gathered more than 4,000 people from 152 countries. The summit promotes access to education, employment, culture and participation in all areas of life for more than 285 million blind people worldwide.

Gertrude is currently working with Sightsavers on her Equal World campaign [3]in the run-up to the Global Education Summit to ensure that children with disabilities, especially girls, are not left behind with global educational obligations.

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