Today the world celebrates women. International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. This day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
Women with disabilities face double discrimination – their gender and their disability. This year’s call for action is Press for Progress, calling out for a collective action and shared ownership for driving gender parity.
These are 2 inspiring Maltese women who Press for Progress.
Amy Camilleri Zahra
At 32 years of age, Amy is one of Malta’s greatest women activist in the disability sector.
In 2006, Amy was rushed urgently to hospital where she was diagnosed with meningitis. Her survival rate was given as very low by doctors, but Amy fought for her life and survived. Since then she never looked back. Even though she had lost both legs below the knee and part of her fingers due to blood poisoning and undertook a kidney replacement, Amy managed to undertake a healing journey with the support of her loved ones.
Since then Amy has worked relentlessly as an advocate in the disability sector. In 2008 she set up Amputees4Amputees, an NGO supporting people who have gone through an amputation experience. She has completed a Bachelors’ Degree in Psychology at the University of Malta as well as an MA in Disabilities Studies at the University of Leeds.
Amy worked as Manager at KNPD (today CRPD) and as Research Assistant at the University of Malta. She is still active in this field today as Assistant Lecturer. Amy is also Executive Committee Member on the National Council for Women.
Last February Amy also became mother of baby Gianni.
Jeanesse Abela was born prematurely 40 years ago. A few months after giving birth, her mother realised that something was not quite right with Jeanesse. Doctors eventually diagnosed her with celebral palsy, athiod type. This meant that Jeanesse had uncontrollable jerky movements, stiff muscles, and lack of coordination.
Jeanesse had a lot of struggles throughout her childhood years but her parents and siblings always supported her throughout. She went to physiotherapists and speech therapists during her early years until she finally managed to join other kids at school. Jeanesse was always a bright child. Throughout her school years she not only performed well academically, but also undertook extra-curriculum activities.
She was the pride of her parents when she successfully passed 7 O’Levels and found a work as a clerk with GO, where she has been for the past 20 years.
Apart from being an exemplary witness of how strength of character and determination can push you through in life, Jeanesse is also a big activist in the disability sector. In 2005 she set up LAND (Living Ability Not Disability), an NGO which promotes inclusion, education and independence and socialize youths with physical disabilities into mainstream society.