Stephanie Ortoleva

Photo: Stephanie Ortoleva

Stephanie Ortoleva, an international human rights lawyer, is the President and Founder of Women Enabled, Inc., which advocates and educates to advance the rights of women and persons with disabilities, with a special focus on women and girls with disabilities, in collaboration with organizations of women and girls with disabilities worldwide. Women Enabled, Inc.also engages with multilateral organizations, governments, NGOs, among others and conducts precedent-setting legal and policy research. Our work on human rights programming and education in developing, transition and post-conflict countries also advances these objectives. Ms. Ortoleva is a renowned expert in this field and as a woman with a disability herself she brings the development, academic and legal perspectives to her work as well as her personal experience as a woman with a disability.

Ms. Ortoleva has brought the issue of the inclusion of women and girls with disabilities in education and employment in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to the forefront of international engagement. In 2011, she organized the only official high level side event on women and girls with disabilities at the 55th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW55,) ( and, under Our Issues and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) which had as its priority theme Education and Employment of Women in STEM, as women and girls with disabilities had been sidelined in the CSW55 preparations. As a result of Ms. Ortoleva’s side event and her advocacy, women and girls with disabilities were included in the CSW55 Final Conclusions(CSW 55 Adopted Agreed Conclusions available at Ms. Ortoleva has authored a chapter on this subject in the forthcoming book: Women and Girls with Disabilities—Global Perspectives, Sage Publications, 2014. The chapter addresses the international legal framework, the barriers to inclusion, suggested remedies and outlines some highly successful projects in the field.

Additionally, of special significance, is her highly-respected Report on Violence Against Women and Girls with Disabilities: Stephanie Ortoleva and Hope Lewis, “Forgotten Sisters—A Report on Violence Against Women with Disabilities: An Overview of its Nature, Scope, Causes and Consequences” (August 21, 2012). Ms. Ortoleva and Women Enabled, Inc. have numerous other publications, including “Inaccessible Justice: Persons with Disabilities and the Legal System,” “The Forgotten Peace Builders: Women with Disabilities,” as well as papers prepared for the United Nations, such as “Recommendations to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women to include Women and Girls with Disabilities as the Committee Elaborates a General Recommendation on Access to Justice for Women”. These papers and other publications are available on the Social Science Research Network Web site at: Ms. Ortoleva serves or has served on the Boards of directors of several women’s rights and disability rights organizations, including the National Organization for Women, Disability Rights International, among others and is the founding co-Chair of the American Society for International Law’s International Disability rights Interest Group. She previously served as an Attorney and Human Rights officer with the U.S. Department of State and is the recipient of the Department’s prestigious Franklin Award for her outstanding work on human rights matters before multilateral organizations. Ms. Ortoleva received her J.D. from Hofstra University School of Law with outstanding academic honors.