Ghanaian women’s rights activist Gertrude Oforiwa Fefoame has won a top international women’s empowerment award in recognition of her life-long work for the rights of women and girls with disabilities.
Presented at the World Blindness Summit 2021, the Women’s Empowerment Award is given to a woman who is blind or partially sighted who has made a substantial and outstanding contribution to empower other women.
Gertrude, who is currently the advocacy advisor for social inclusion at international NGO Sightsavers, has spent the past forty years of her life campaigning for the rights of women and girls with disabilities. She has been a key voice in the work securing rights for women with disabilities at the UN and changing the course of disability rights in Ghana and Africa.
She said, “I am overwhelmed with joy at receiving this great honour. I could not have come this far without the support of all my family, friends and colleagues. I am especially grateful to the many disability organisations I have worked with in Ghana and internationally, and also Sightsavers for their phenomenal support.
“I dedicate this award to all the blind and partially sighted women and girls working at the grassroots to make change, and all the women and girls with disabilities who have come along with me all these years in my efforts”.
Andrew Griffiths, Sightsavers’ head of advocacy, said: “I’m delighted that Gertrude has been awarded the World Blind Union Women’s Empowerment Award. Gertrude, through her tireless advocacy for the rights of women and girls with disabilities, including as a member of the UNCRPD committee, wholly deserves this award and the recognition it brings. It is a privilege to work alongside her at Sightsavers.”
Gertrude began to lose her sight at the age of ten and faced disability discrimination from an early age. She has been working for decades to address the stigma and denial of rights faced by people with disabilities, particularly women and girls. In 2018 she was elected to the committee that monitors the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and has contributed to much of its implementation.
She has ensured that considerations of women with disabilities have been included in major global policies from the development of the Africa Protocol on Disability to the ratification of the Marrakesh treaty. Gertrude was also recognised for her time spent supporting and mentoring younger women with disabilities.
Nominated by the Ghana Federation of Disability Organisations, Gertrude was chosen by The Women’s Leadership Committee of the World Blind Union (WBU) through the nomination process.
Taking place last month in Madrid, Spain, the World Blindness Summit 2021 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 their Equal World campaign , which is campaigning ahead of the Global Education Summit for children with disabilities, especially girls, to not be left behind in global education commitments.