About Stephanie Ortoleva

Stephanie Ortoleva is a highly recognized international human rights lawyer, policy and development consultant, author and researcher on issues of women's rights, disability rights and the rights of women and girls with disabilities. She educates and advocates for the human rights of all women and girls, with a special focus on women and girls with disabilities, and collaborates on in-country projects with organizations of women and girls with disabilities worldwide. She has extensive experience in human rights programming and training in developing, transition, and post-conflict countries, as well as consulting for governments, non-governmental organizations and international organizations.

As a woman with a disability herself, Stephanie brings the development, academic and legal perspectives to her work as well as her personal experience as a woman with a disability.

Stephanie is the Founding President and former Legal Director of Women Enabled International (WEI), a non-profit organization which works at the intersection of women’s rights and disability rights and educates and advocates internationally for the human rights of women and girls with disabilities, through collaborations with organizations of disabled women worldwide. WEI works at the United Nations and other multilateral organizations to ensure the inclusion of women and girls with disabilities in national, regional and international human rights law, policy and development programing. WEI is recognized as innovative and groundbreaking and serves as a prime resource for disabled women’s rights advocates globally. At WEI, Stephanie managed the organization, supervised the staff, engaged in fundraising, and led the conceptualization, design and implementation of WEI's work and special projects, including an innovative accountABILITY Toolkit.

Prior to founding WEI, Stephanie served as an attorney and human rights officer at the U.S. Department of State, where she was awarded the prestigious Franklin Award in 2009 for her outstanding work on human rights matters.

Women’s E-News recognized Stephanie as a leader for women’s rights for the 21st Century in 2016. She was honored at their New York City Gala as a leader for the 21st Century who "…has made it her mission to change the rules that constrict the lives of women and girls across the globe." Hofstra University School of Law recognized her as an Outstanding Women in Law awardee for 2017. In March of 2021, Stephanie was selected as one of five Disabled Women to Watch in an instagram post by Diversability/Diversability Disability Pride.

Stephanie has authored numerous scholarly publications and policy papers regarding women's rights, disability rights, sexual and reproductive rights, access to justice, violence against women, conflict and post-conflict situations, electoral and political reform, and rule of law. Her papers can be found on the publications page of this website, on SSRN.com (Social Science Research Network), and on WomenEnabled.org.

She is the former founding Co-Chair of the American Society of International Law's International Disability Rights Interest Group, serves on the American Bar Association's Commission on Disability Rights and serves on the Board of Directors of several women's rights and disability rights organizations. She graduated from Hofstra University School of Law with outstanding honors, served on the Hofstra Law Review and is admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court and in the State of New York.

Honors and Awards

Named one of Diversability's Disabled Women to Watch, March 2021

Named one of Women's eNews' 21 Leaders for the 21st Century, 2016

Hofstra University Outstanding Women in Law, 2017

U.S. Department of State Franklin Award, 2009

A professional portrait photo of a smiling woman with long dark blonde hair. She wears dark tinted glasses, a white blouse, and a turquoise jacket.
A smiling woman sitting in an auditorium. There is equipment in front of her including a laptop computer, a microphone, and piles of folders.
A women with long blonde hair looks to the left; she holds a sign that states 'Inequality is ignoring women with disabilities.'
A black and white photo of a woman with glasses. She has long hair pulled back.
A black and white photo of Stephanie Ortoleva at the United Nations during a treaty negotiations session. Photo by Tom Olin.