This summer, Mobility International USA convened its tenth cohort of disabled women leaders and grassroots activists from around the world.
Twenty-three disabled women activists convened for the 10th International Women’s Institute on Leadership and Disability (WILD) Exchange Program, from June 1 – June 18, 2022.
The final delegation represented Bangladesh, Botswana, Brazil, Burundi, Cameroon, Colombia, Costa Rica, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mauritius, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Vietnam. These activists, representing diverse disabilities, brought expertise in fields such as law, policy, business, human rights, youth empowerment, education, health, media, HIV/AIDS, and violence prevention.
Embracing the “Loud, Proud and Passionate®” theme, WILD women advanced in their personal and professional roles as community, national and world leaders. Through a series of intensive seminars and site visits, delegates focused on using the media, implementing policy and legislation, networking with international allies, and improving employment and educational opportunities. Delegates also participated in team building activities, such as an outdoor challenge course and adaptive cycling, and learned about U.S. culture by staying with local families.
One of the unique components of the WILD program was the Gender, Disability and Development Institute (GDDI), where WILD delegates met with 15 representatives from 12 international development agencies. From June 15-16, this innovative retreat went beyond rhetoric to engage participants in direct dialogue about strategies for including women and girls with disabilities in development projects throughout the world.
Following are reflections from some of the 2022 WILD women, about their WILD experience and how it will impact their lives and work:
“To have a group of international women with disabilities strengthens my view of women with disabilities, united collectively. I have never had this experience. I am going to incorporate twin-track approach, infiltration, plus cross-disability in all of my work” – WILD 2022 delegate from Brazil
“Speaking out loud in front of a hundred people is not something that we do in our country. Particularly for a woman with disability, it is so difficult to exercise speaking out in front of people. This opportunity helped me to do it without fear. The positive feedback I got from the participants is a GOLDEN experience. And I want to do it again and again.” – WILD 2022 delegate from Ethiopia
“The self-defense workshop was very good. I learned new techniques of protecting myself and helping others too. I am planning a workshop on self-defense for my other women with disabilities sisters in India.” – WILD 2022 delegate from India
“I am a more powerful leader now. More proud to be a woman with a disability. I have more courage to dare to do something very big that I thought I was not capable of doing. I have so many ideas thanks to WILD.” – WILD 2022 delegate from Costa Rica [translated]
As a non-profit organization, the mission of MIUSA is to empower people with disabilities around the world to achieve their human rights through international exchange and international development. Since 1981, MIUSA has offered international exchange programs for over 2,300 youth, adults and professionals with and without disabilities from more than 135 countries.
The WILD program was made possible through the generous support of the MacArthur Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Channel Foundation, Islamic Relief USA, Australian Embassy of Mexico, and MIUSA’s Women’s Leadership Fund. The program is also supported by national and local organizations and businesses, as well as homestay families and volunteers.