Gertrude (Getty) Oforiwa Fefoame, Sightsavers’ Global Advocacy Advisor, has been nominated by the government of Ghana to join the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The Committee is a body of 18 independent experts which monitors the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Sightsavers’ Content Strategist Kate McCoy speaks with Getty about her nomination and why she’s the right woman for the job…
How did your nomination come about?
Over the years, the Ghana Federation of Disability Organisations (GFD – the umbrella organisation of people with disabilities in Ghana) had been thinking I would be a good candidate for this position, especially when Ghana ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2012.
In the past two years I’ve had a number of commendations from people outside Ghana which brought the National Council of Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) to think I would be appropriate, and these two things came together during informal conversations while we were at the UN Conference of States Parties last year.
The NCPD and the GFD did a joint nomination to the government of Ghana through the ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection.
How do you feel about your nomination?
It’s very fulfilling, but I also know it’s a challenging time ahead. There are only 18 seats for the whole world, for all countries that are ratified. Only nine seats are up for election, including people who are running for re-election.
Why do you want to take on the role?
I have personal experience of living in a developing country, trying to survive. I have contributed to grass roots development so I bring the experience of a volunteer. [I’ve been] a young lady growing through the ranks into Africa regional development with Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs), especially those concerned with visual impairments, into world level where I have held a number of positions at the World Blind Union.
As a professional, I bring broad experience from around the world. Through my role at Sightsavers and as a personal leader I have been sharpening my skills, deepening my understanding and strengthening my desire to make the world a better place for all, with a focus on people with disabilities.
Tell us a bit more about your experience…
As Sightsavers’ Global Advocacy Advisor, one of my responsibilities has been to help my country teams and partners to understand the principals of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities so they can support DPOs to contribute to the reports. For each country there are two reports the CRPD committee of experts looks at: the state reports on the implementation of the convention and, most importantly, civil society organisations and non-state actors prepare an alternative report to give their own perspective.
In Ghana through my volunteer roles I have been a technical support in strengthening the national Act. I played a part in developing of the Disability Act, especially the gender part, but after looking at the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, we saw gaps so we are working on aligning the Disability Act to it.
Why do you think you are a strong candidate?
I come with two strong areas: gender in development and education. Since 1981 I have been involved in the gender movement, working on inclusion of women with disabilities. I was an initiating member of the women’s group for the Ghana Blind Association, and I was instrumental in ensuring representation of women in the GFD through the women’s committee.
I have come to appreciate the relationship between the disability arena and other rights areas. So we will talk about the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, but also talk about the inclusion of children with disabilities, the inclusion of youth with disabilities in culture, in all the other arenas of rights and development. I’ve come to appreciate that overlap and that’s something I really wish to contribute to.
Women with disabilities are under-represented on the committee. Before election there were six women to 12 men, which was not good enough! And out of the nine who remain only one is a woman; we must make up for the loss.
If I were elected there is also an influencing element: analysing the reports, bringing out the concerns and following up with the state can contribute to solving observed issues. I would also be able to get better understanding from engagement at a top committee level, direct one-to-one discussions with countries and engagement with Disabled People’s Organisations – in these three roles I should be able to impact and influence.
Read more from Getty in her blog on better representation for women with disabilities.