Deaf women in Chile, South America, are learning skills they can use to help their community “take flight” to far-reaching horizons in a project called, “Flight Lessons: Pioneers of the Deaf Community.” The Nellie Zabel Foundation (named after Nellie Zabel, who became the first Deaf woman to earn a pilot’s license in 1928) led their first Leadership School for Deaf women in January in Chile.
Mill Neck International (MNI) and another partner organization, WENÜI, collaborated to support the Nellie Zabel Foundation in its initiative to empower this group of emerging Deaf women leaders to take metaphorical flying lessons and learn leadership skills.
MNI’s Planning Monitoring and Evaluation (PME) Specialist, Sarah Houge, timed her monitoring visit to coincide with the Leadership School for Deaf Women (which represented all 15 regions within Chile), where she led workshops and visited the WENÜI office and other stakeholders in Antofagasta. During the Leadership School, participants learned about advocacy in politics and legislation. Furthermore, they learned about the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Additional topics included using media to present information, women’s health and gender-based violence. The majority of presenters were Deaf women and also came from multiple countries, including the United States and Argentina. As a result, participants were able to network among contacts who normally would have been out of reach.
After the Leadership School, a new beginning hopes to arise, as the women return home and use the leadership skills they learned to advocate for better laws for Deaf women, to be better leaders for Deaf women and to advocate for removing barriers and boundaries, so that nothing can stop them from taking flight to a destiny that they define for themselves.