A woman with two small children holds a sign saying #EqualUN.

December 2020: we have a more equal UN!

The results are nearly all in for the 2020 election of members of the UN disability committee (there’s a final round still to go to decide the last positions) – so far five women have been elected, meaning there is gender parity on the committee for the first time ever! Sir Robert Martin, the first member of the committee with an intellectual disability, was also re-elected, which is great news.

This is partly thanks to Equal World campaign supporters like you who contacted their UN representatives to call for gender equality and diversity on the committee. We can’t thank you enough.

Read more about the 2020 election result

One of the key calls of the Equal World campaign is for the voices of women with disabilities to be heard, with representation at all levels of society, and in all governing bodies that make decisions affecting their lives. But this is a huge and ongoing challenge.

To make sure that the United Nations committee that monitors the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) reflects the diversity of the people whose rights it exists to uphold, it needs to fairly represent women, people with different types of impairment, and people from lower income countries.

Listen to past, present and potential members of the CRPD committee (starting with Diane Kingston, past committee member, UK) talk about why an #EqualUN is so important. And read our blogs from committee candidates Sif Holst (Denmark) and Eufémia Amela (Mozambique) on why diversity and gender equality on the committee really matters.

The experts

Robert Martin, current member, New Zealand, re-elected in 2020:

Sif Holst, 2020 candidate, Denmark:

“Gender and background make a huge difference in how we experience disability”: read Sif’s blog post for Sightsavers 


Eufémia Amela, 2020 candidate, Mozambique:

“Representation means speaking for ourselves”: read Eufémia’s blog post for Sightsavers


Maria Soledad (past member, currently UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Disability and Accessibility, Chile):


Risnawati Uthami (current member, Indonesia):


Yuliia Sachuk, 2020 candidate, Ukraine:


Gertrude Oforiwa Fefoame (current member, Ghana):


Benafsha Yaqoobi, 2020 candidate, Afghanistan:


Rosemary Kayess (current member, Australia):


Mara Gabrilli (current member, Brazil):


Yetnebersh Nigussie (disability rights advocate):

The UN disability committee

The UN disability committee has 18 members. The current committee includes six women, the first person with an intellectual disability to be voted as a member (who is standing for reelection), and five members from low or lower middle income countries.

It’s essential that the committee can address the needs of all people with disabilities, particularly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic which has affected people from different marginalised groups in very different ways. Each member country that has signed and ratified the CRPD has up to nine votes to cast in the election – we’re calling on them to use these votes to ensure the committee has fair and diverse representation.

Here’s how the system works

Only member countries that have both signed and ratified the CRPD get to vote for the committee.

  • Signing means a country agrees the content of the treaty and intends to work towards it.
  • Ratifying means it’s legally binding under international law.

Some countries have signed but not ratified (for example, Cameroon and the United States), and they don’t get to vote for the committee.

Here’s how you can get involved!

If your country has ratified the CRPD: send a pre-written email to your country’s ambassador to the UN in New York, asking them to vote with diversity in mind.

If your country hasn’t ratified the CRPD: send a pre-written email to your country’s ambassador to the UN urging them to do it.

So either way, you can take action for disability rights!

Take action for an #EqualUN now


“Who is not at the table?”

Watch the closing speech made by Gertrude Oforiwa Fefoame (Sightsavers’ Advocacy Adviser for Social Inclusion, newly appointed to the CRPD committee in 2018) on behalf of civil society at the 10th Conference of States Parties to the CRPD in June 2017 (There’s also a text version available).

Share Gertrude’s video on Facebook or Twitter


March 2020: Sightsavers calls for more women on UN disability committee

June 2018: Six women, including Gertrude Oforiwa Fefoame, are elected to the CRPD committee!

April 2018: Nominations have closed for the CRPD committee – a total of 17 women and 13 men have been nominated.