Get-hooked January 13, 2022
Deaf women politicians inspiring a change in the world around us
Shirley Pinto made history in Israel as the first deaf member to be sworn into that country’s parliament, the Knesset. Pinto follows in the footsteps of many other deaf and hard of hearing women politicians across the globe who are working to advocate the rights of disabled people and other marginalised groups.Women with disabilities face twice as many barriers when it comes to exercising their political rights due to their disability and gender. That has not kept them back from shaping the future of the world. Take women’s emancipation for instance. Researchers of deaf history have highlighted how deaf women had a critical role to play in the fight for the right of women to vote.
Today, women with disabilities are a tiny minority of elected representatives and political decision-makers everywhere. This needs to change. One way to do that is by electing more disabled women to ensure that the voices of all marginalised groups, including disabled people are heard.
Pinto’s induction into Israel’s parliament is a significant moment for that country and for the rest of the world. She joins a small group of deaf and hard of hearing women politicians who have made their presence felt by occupying key political positions.
Shirley Pinto – Israel’s first Deaf lawmaker
Let’s start with the newest kid on the block. A long-time campaigner on disability issues, especially on matters relating to deaf and hard of hearing people, Shirley Pinto, 32 years old, was sworn into Israel’s Parliament Knesset using sign language and spoken Hebrew along with members of the new government. Pinto is the Religious Services Minister and has vast experience working in disability and accessibility issues.
The significance of her induction into the Knesset was noted by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who called it, “One of the most meaningful moments for me — for all of us.”
אתחיל במילה הכי חשובה: תודה!
היום, אני בעיקר מתרגשת עבור ציבור עצום של שני מיליון אנשים עם מוגבלות, שחיים בינינו ואף אחד לא סופר.
הם כולם, יחד איתי, במעמד הזה. בזכותם אני כאן, ולמענם אעבוד קשה בכדי לשבור את הסטיגמות והחסמים ולהביא את מדינת ישראל לנגישה ומכילה יותר! pic.twitter.com/j1xgVRiNfg
— שירלי פינטו Shirly Pinto (@ShirlyPinto) June 16, 2021
Pilar Lima – First Deaf senator in Spain
In 2015, Pilar Lima became the first Deaf senator in Spain and the sixth in Europe. As an elected representative, Lima speaks for all marginalised groups as she made it clear in her speech – “Guaranteeing social rights, promoting participation initiatives and protecting vulnerable groups”. She is also the fourth Deaf female parliamentarian in Europe.
The choice of Lima is regarded as a milestone in Spain’s politics and Deaf history in general. As a deaf user of sign language, her interventions are interpreted from sign language. Her presence is an emphatic reminder of the contributions deaf women have made to society in every sphere. Lima has also been a member of the LAMBDA Collective of lesbians, gays, transsexuals and bisexuals of Valencia and of the Association of Deaf People of Valencia.
The following video shows her candidacy to the Citizen Board of Podemos, a political party.
Helga Stevens – First Female Deaf member, European Parliament
Helga Stevens from Belgium has been a member of the European Parliament since 2014. She was the first female Deaf member to be elected to this prestigious body. Earlier, she had been a Member of the Flemish Parliament representing the New Flemish Alliance party for 10 years.
Stevens is well known for her work fighting for the rights of disabled people. She was the first deaf person in Belgium to receive a law degree. She has been a Member of the Flemish Parliament for two consecutive legislatures. She was also a ‘Community Senator’, meaning that she combined two mandates – sitting in both the Flemish Parliament and the Senate.
During the July 2010 elections for the Senate, Stevens was declared the tenth most popular politician in Flanders and sixteenth most popular politician in Belgium.
Here is Stevens delivering the keynote speech at the Zero Project Conference in 2017
Amanda Folendorf – First Deaf female mayor, U.S.
34-year-old Amanda Folendorf is breaking down barriers on many fronts. She is the mayor of Angels Camp in the state of California and the first female Deaf mayor in the United States.
Folendorf was seven years old when she learned she was deaf. She was able to communicate with others by reading their lips, something she still does during city council meetings.
Folendorf ran for mayor because she wanted to give back to the city she grew up in. She hopes to influence her generation and the ones that follow to get involved in government.
“I think the biggest thing is that as a deaf person there’s no box that fits all,” she says. “We’re all unique in the way we grew up because of the system.”
Watch Amanda Folendorf talk about her journey into politics in this video:
Helene Jarmer- Austria’s first Deaf MP
As a member of the National Council of Austria, Jarmer is the third culturally Deaf person in world history to be elected to a national parliament. Jarmer became deaf when she was two years old in an accident.
She was categorised as hard of hearing and attended a school for hard-of-hearing students. She went on to be qualified to teach deaf and hard-of-hearing students at high schools and in schools for the deaf.
Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen – South Africa’s first Deaf MP
Newhoudt-Druchen holds the honour of being the world’s first Deaf woman member of Parliament. She has worked very hard for Deaf people’s rights, focusing on improving accessibility of the media by including sign language and subtitling.
This video shows a parliamentary intervention by her. It has no subtitles.
Mojo Mathers, New Zealand’s first Deaf MP
New Zealand politician Mojo Mathers is a former member of the New Zealand House of Representatives. She was the country’s first deaf MP.
Mathers delivered her maiden speech with help from a sign language interpreter in the chamber – a first for New Zealand’s Parliament.
“My election on the Green Party list under MMP means that hearing impaired, deaf and people with disabilities have representation in Parliament by someone who shares with them many of the same experiences and challenges that they face,” she said. “It is a huge honour to be representing this community in the House, and I take this responsibility seriously.”
Watch her in action in Parliament here:
Dimitra Arapoglou – Second Deaf person in the world to be elected to parliament
An active member of the deaf community in Greece, Dimitra Arapoglou was elected to the country’s parliament for the 2007 to 2009 term. She has spoken openly about the discrimination she has faced as a deaf woman in the Greek Parliament.
Arapoglou has also talked about the social exclusion of people with disabilities across various platforms.
These deaf women politicians are fighting for change for disabled people in their countries. Some of them may no longer be holding office but make the political noise needed to make the world a more inclusive one for disabled people and other marginalised groups.
Watch in Sign Language
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