Focus on Scholarships: Protecting the rights of persons with disabilities
By UWCSEA Foundation
Our fourth Focus on Scholarship story explains how a gap year experience inspired Priscila, a scholar from Mexico, to advocate for a fairer world for all.
Priscila, Class of 2006 and scholar from Mexico, embarked on a College coordinated gap year to work in schools in rural Kenya. Seeing the challenges the children faced on a daily basis made her even more determined to study international law and sustainable development so that she could advocate for a fairer world with equal opportunities for everyone. While in Kenya, she also developed a school feeding program for a local primary school that is still running, having given out over a million breakfasts in 10 years.
Her journey led her to study International Law at the University College Utrecht, followed by a Masters in International Law of Human Rights and Criminal Justice from University Utrecht School of Law. During her time at University, she held various internship positions, consulting for a micro-finance project for women in the outskirts of Bangalore, India. For two years Priscila also carried out legal research at the Human Rights Law Clinic of the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights (SIM) and was the logistics director of her university’s Model United Nations (MUN) programme.
In 2012, Priscila returned home to Mexico to work at the Centro Pro Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez, before joining Disability Rights International (DRI) to lead their gender programme. With the DRI, she helped to create Colectivo Chuhcan, the first female organisation in Mexico directed by persons with psychosocial disabilities. The group supported women to learn about their rights, share their experiences of living with their disabilities and address some of the main violations of their rights. The group is now recognised as best practice at the international level to effectively promote, protect and defend the rights of women with disabilities.
Her work with the DRI saw Priscila invited to speak before the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2014. She presented her findings of the main violations against the sexual and reproductive rights of women with disabilities in Mexico and, as a result, several recommendations were made by the Committee. Those included the investigation of authorities and health institutions in Mexico recommending or forcing sterilisation for women with disabilities, and the establishment of programmes to provide better support. In 2016, Priscila was seconded to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights as an expert on mental health and human rights.
Currently working as the Associate Director at DRI, she is based in Washington D.C. and supervises a range of projects across Mexico, Central America and Africa. Her main work focuses on advancing the rights of boys, girls and adults with disabilities, and especially those segregated in abusive institutions.
"The UWC values of compassion and service and a sense of idealism have driven my desire to advocate for the rights of one of the most marginalized and voiceless groups in society: persons with disabilities. The values of personal responsibility and challenge have driven my career, striving to always give my best. I also treasure the value of international and intercultural understanding that I gained in UWC, having studied with people from so many nationalities. This experience has helped me in my work, where I have to work in several countries with different cultures and values."
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