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Building Community in Diversity: Disability Justice in Panama

A group of people with blue shirts on, some in wheelchairs, pose for a photo - many with their hands raised to the sky in celebration.

Priority Community | Girls and Young Women with Disabilities

Region | Latin America

The Challenge:

With funding from VIVA Girls, Estefanía, a blind young woman activist, works to promote autonomy among other young women with disabilities in Panama, who face discrimination and violence because of both their gender and ability status.

Estefanía's Contribution:

Through a four-day workshop, Estefanía brought together young women and girls with disabilities from across the country. The participants built community and learned skills to advocate for themselves and  their communities.

Estefanía crafted the workshop to address the feeling of powerlessness that young women with disabilities may feel in the face of continued discrimination. The participants learned yoga and took an accessible self-defense class. These activities reinforced the importance of self-care  and trusting themselves.

At the end of the workshop, each participant developed an action plan that detailed steps they will take to improve the lives of other young women with disabilities in their communities. These plans ranged from developing a 2-day workshop to promote health and sexual education for people with disabilities, to creating online resources for Deaf women on YouTube. As these leaders return to their communities and create their own programs, the tools and knowledge gained will spread, creating lasting impact and deepening the disability justice movement by and for girls with disabilities.

COVID UPDATE

Estefanía is working with the government of Panama to respond to the needs of young women with disabilities. These women are disproportionately affected by the pandemic from a lack of access to essential supplies often not distributed by the government. Estefanía distributes critical  items like sanitary napkins, nutritional supplements, medications, disposable diapers, dry food, cleaning and personal hygiene products. For now, the action plans of Estefanía’s workshop participants are on hold until it is safe for them to resume their organizing efforts.

How You Can Help