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“Representation means speaking for ourselves”

Eufémia Amela, November 2020
Eufémia Amela smiles and holds a sign saying #EqualUN.

Eufémia Amela is Mozambique’s nominee for the UN disability committee, which is holding an election for new members in late November 2020. She has a physical disability after being affected by polio as a child.

My background

I am the second daughter of eight children. After I contracted polio, resulting in my disability, my parents moved to the capital of the country. There, I studied from elementary school to higher education, graduated as a history and geography teacher and graduated in planning, administration and management education, and worked as a public sector worker and human rights activist (in particular, for people with disabilities).

During my journey I [have worked on] gender issues, inclusive education and HIV/AIDS, and gained experience in national and international events related to issues of disability and gender. I participated in the preparation of training manuals on disability for service providers and an article for a book on inclusive education issues in higher education.

My experience of disability discrimination

During my life as a person with a disability, I have faced several situations of discrimination and attitude barriers. [In 1986] my boss in the workplace refused my participation in an internship in Brazil, claiming that I was a person with a disability and that I could not do it. Another situation was the rejection by my partner’s family, who said that I am not an ideal woman because my disability would prevent me from doing housework and taking care of them. I also experienced situations in which my sexuality was questioned [and suggestions] that I am very daring to have children in a situation where I am a person with a disability. This marked me in such a way that I decided to have [children. I now have] three daughters, who are the reason for my life and give me great pride to fight for the rights of people with disabilities, and in particular women with disabilities.

Why it’s so important that we have an #EqualUN

It is important to ensure gender balance and equity [on the UN disability committee] to ensure that women have the right to a voice. Women with disabilities suffer double discrimination (for being a woman and for being a person with a disability), and even among people with disabilities, women with disabilities remain discriminated against and have little visibility. Also, the participation of women in the committee can influence states parties to pass non-discriminatory laws towards women with disabilities.

In the committee it is important that there is diversity. Although the disability community has some things in common, it is important that the various types of impairment are represented so that the different sensitivities are felt, taking into account that representation means speaking in the first person, [with our own] voices – it means nothing for us without us. Another aspect is that disability can be linked with poverty, so it is important to have representation of people living in low-income countries. This may influence states parties to promote actions aimed at allocating more resources and investments in the area of disability.

The barriers [I have experienced in trying to] access public services made me a firm woman with the courage to fight for my rights through membership in the associative movement as one of the pioneers, in the certainty that one day life has to change and that differences cannot divide us as human beings.

A woman sits in a wheelchair wearing colourful clothes.

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 Eufémia Amela

Eufémia is Mozambique’s nominee for the committee that monitors implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Elections for new committee members will be held in late November 2020.

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