New York, The Permanent Missions of the United Arab Emirates and the United States to the United Nations in partnership with UN Women and World Enabled convened an expert discussion on the empowerment of young women and girls with disabilities.


Organized at the sidelines of the 9th Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) held at the United Nations from 14-16 June, the meeting brought together a panel of Member State and UN representatives as well as leading international experts working at the intersection of gender, youth and disability.


During the event, panelists discussed the importance of acknowledging individual agency and leadership of young women and girls with disabilities and highlighted how Member States, civil society and the UN can better coordinate their efforts to achieve meaningful results.


Dr. Victor Pineda, renowned disability rights advocate and President of World Enabled moderated the discussion. Opening the event he applauded the UAE, the US and UN Women for co-hosting the event and highlighted the commitment of the Permanent Representative of the UAE to the United Nations: “Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh’s leadership is what brings us here today. She is a huge advocate for women and girls, and for elevating the role of disability in the UAE’s engagement at the United Nations”.


Setting the scene, HE Ambassador Lana Zaki Nusseibeh stressed that worldwide “young women and girls with disabilities are subject to multiple and aggravated forms of discrimination on the basis of their disability, gender and age” and highlighted the UAE’s commitment to strengthening equal rights and opportunities for persons with disabilities, including young women and girls.


Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women provided important insights on the gender aspects of the debate: “Gender neutral approaches perpetuate the vulnerability and discrimination that disproportionately affect women and girls”.


Sara Minkara, founder of “Empowerment through Integration” joined the conversation via phone to share her experience. Her non-profit organization works to change the narrative surrounding disability and empower young people with disabilities. She emphasized the importance to build young people’s confidence: “If you don’t believe in yourself and your ability, you cannot succeed”.


Speaking about empowerment, panelists also emphasized the centrality of inclusive, accessible education and mentorship programmes, supporting young women and girls with disabilities to join the workforce.


The discussion highlighted the interconnectedness of the CRPD and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and emphasized the role young women and girls play in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Dr. Victor Pineda stressed that “The 2030 Agenda will not be realized if we fail to look at, engage and unlock the capabilities of young women and girls with disabilities”.


Judith Heumann, Senior Advisor at the U.S. Department of State spoke about the key role of national and local governments, stressing that women and girls need to be involved in conversations about disability.


Speakers acknowledged the need to promote synergies, strong partnerships and alliances, and called to strengthen the collaboration between governments, Civil Society and the United Nations to successfully drive institutional change and development.


Further speakers included Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo, Disability Advisor at the World Bank, Stephanie Ortoleva, President of Women Enabled International, Patty Alleman, UNICEF Senior Gender and Development Specialist, as well as Casar Jacobson, a young entrepreneur from Canada.


The event was attended by the UAE delegation to the Conference of States Parties to the CRPD, consisting of H.E. Hussain Saeed Abdulla Ahmad Al Shaikh, Assistant Under-Secretary for Social Welfare Affairs at the Ministry for Community Development, H.E. Dr. Alya Humaid Saqer Humaid AlQassimi, Executive Director of Development and Social Welfare – Community Development Authority of Dubai, H.E. Ms. Reem Mohamed AbdulJalil Al Fahim, Chief Executive Officer, SEDRA Foundation and Mr. Abdulla Ismail Abdulla Al Kamali, Acting President of Special Needs Sector – Zayed Higher Organization.