Virtual WILD Advances Women's Leadership

Screen shot of Virtual WILD closing ceremony
Photo credit: www.kiefelphotography.com
This past Fall, Mobility International USA convened its tenth cohort of disabled women leaders and grassroots activists from around the world.
October 5, 2021 - October 22, 2021

Thirty-eight disabled women activists from Africa, Asia, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East convened for the first-ever Virtual International Women’s Institute on Leadership and Disability (WILD) Exchange Program, which took place from October 5 – 22, 2021. WILD is MIUSA's signature exchange program on disabled women's leadership.

Discover the ongoing impact of the WILD program.

A Diverse Delegation

To date, over 242 women from 84 countries have graduated from the WILD program.

The 2021 WILD delegation included women leaders with diverse disabilities from 37 countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Botswana, Brazil, Burundi, Cameroon, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Mozambique, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe.

Delegates disabilities include blind or low vision, Deaf or hard of hearing, intellectual disabilities, health-related disabilities, psychosocial disabilities and mobility disabilities.

These activists bring expertise in fields such as law, policy, business, human rights, youth empowerment, education, health, media, HIV/AIDS, and violence prevention.

Building Capacity as Leaders

Embracing the “Loud, Proud and Passionate®” theme, WILD women will move forward in their personal and professional roles as community, national and world leaders. Through a series of 9, intensive virtual sessions, delegates focused on implementing policy and legislation, addressed issues of critical importance to women with disabilities, such as sexual and reproductive health and gender based violence, and networked with international allies and activists. Delegates also learned about U.S. culture by meeting virtually with American homestay families.

Words from WILD Women

A WILD delegate from Costa Rica who has a physical disability reflected on her Virtual WILD experience:

“My experience in WILD had a great impact on me as a woman and as an activist. It gave me power and motivation to continue exercising activism in my country, as well as great ideas for implementing in my work."

A WILD delegate from Bangladesh who has a visual disability adds:

“It was one of the most outstanding experiences I have had. It was the first time in my life I am being connected to the world.”

Gender, Disability and Development Institute (GDDI)

One of the unique components of the Virtual WILD program was the two-day Gender, Disability and Development Institute (GDDI), where WILD delegates met with representatives from international development agencies. From October 19 – 20, 2021, 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.

Envisioning the impact on her work, a WILD delegate from South Africa who has a physical disability shared her experience with the GDDI sessions:

“I learnt so much about networking and how to speak to nondisabled organizations with the aim of collaborating with them.”

A GDDI participant from The Fund for Global Human Rights shared:

“I expect the learning from this session will inspire me to be more intentional in how we include people with disabilities in our work.”

Following the virtual program, WILD delegates are taking action in their communities. They have plans to work with mainstream development organizations in their local communities to ensure disabled women and girls are included in a range of programs, from disaster response and legislative advocacy to gender-based violence prevention and reproductive health. Delegates will continue to engage with each other virtually as they implement their action plans leading up to the in-person component of the WILD program, which is scheduled for June 2022.

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.

Thank you to our WILD Funders!

MacArthur Foundation
Channel Foundation
Open Society Foundations
MADRE

Thank you to our GDDI Sponsors!

International Youth Foundation
Islamic Relief USA
Oxfam America

WILD is also supported by individual donors who contributed to MIUSA’s Women’s Leadership Fund, as well as many local organizations, businesses, homestay families and volunteers.

You too can support the life-changing WILD program! Make your tax-deductible donation today or sdunn [at] miusa.org (subject: WILD%20Sponsorship%20Inquiry) (contact MIUSA about sponsorship opportunities).