The jury for the Her Abilities Awards is made up of strong women with and without disabilities from different fields of life. Her Abilities is the first global award honouring the achievements of women with disabilities. With this award, they aim to honour women with disabilities who achieved greatness in their life and field of work. Light for the World is the founder of the award, proudly supported by Able Magazine.

Meet the jury for 2018:

Theresia Degener

Position/Job: Professor of Law and Disability Studies
Country: Germany
Short Biography: Theresia Degener is professor of law and disability studies at Protestant University of Applied Sciences in Bochum, Germany and director of the Bochum Center for Disability Studies BODYS. Since 2017 she is Chair of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

She co-authored the background study of to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Quinn / Degener (2002) Human rights and disability: The current use and future potential of United Nations human rights instruments in the context of disability, OHCHR, United Nations and has participated in drafting the CRPD.

Shantha Rau Barriga

Position/Job: Disability Rights Director, Human Rights Watch
Country: United States
Short Biography: Shantha Rau Barriga is the director of the disability rights division at Human Rights Watch, where she leads research and advocacy on human rights abuses against persons with disabilities worldwide, including on violence and discrimination against women and girls with disabilities. Shantha also promotes mainstreaming of disability rights within the human rights agenda, including through advocacy at the United Nations and European Union. She is a founding member of the International Network of Women with Disabilities, and serves as an Expert Advisor on the Catalyst for Inclusive Education. She was on the UNICEF Advisory Board for the 2013 State of the World’s Children report.

Before joining Human Rights Watch, Shantha participated in the UN negotiations toward the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Shantha received degrees from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and the University of Michigan, and was a Fulbright Scholar to Austria.

Rachel Kachaje

Position/Job: Disability activist, politician
Country: Malawi
Short Biography: Rachel is a disability activist with over 25 years experience in advocating and promoting the rights of people with disabilities and more in particular women and girls with disabilities. Her mission is to lead a life which would always positively affect other people in a positive manner and demonstrate that spiritual and material success depends on one’s own positive mental attitude. She is a former Minister of Persons with Disability and Elderly Affairs in her country Malawi.


Ninia LaGrande

Position/Job: Writer, host, poetry slammer
Country: Germany
Short Biography: Ninia LaGrande (aka Ninia Binias) was born in 1983. She lives and works in Hannover, Germany.

Ninia produces the weekly podcast ‘Die Kolumnisten’ for She regularly contributes commentaries and texts for newspapers, magazines, and online portals such as Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland, Missy Magazin,, and taz.

She is CEO of Hannover-based award-winning agency Buero fuer Popkultur GmbH & Co. KG where she designs sustainable cultural concepts and strategies. She has won a number of awards for her work on feminism and inclusion.

Ninia represents people with disabilities on the advisory council for Hannover’s application for European Cultural Capital 2025.

Mariam Doumbia

Position/Job: Musician
Country: Mali
Short Biography: Mariam Doumbia is part of the musical duo Amadou & Mariam. She became blind at age 5 as a consequence of untreated measles.

Known as “the blind couple from Mali”, Amadou & Mariam met at Mali’s Institute for the Young Blind, where they both performed at the Institute’s Eclipse Orchestra, directed by Idrissa Soumaouro, and found they shared an interest in music.


María Soledad Cisternas Reyes

Position/Job: Law Professor, UN Special Envoy
Country: Chile
Short Biography: María Soledad Cisternas Reyes is a Chilean lawyer, law professor and researcher with a degree in Law and a master in Political Science.

Since 2017, she is the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Disability and Accessibility.

From 2013 to 2016, she was Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities of the United Nations.

In 2014, María Soledad Cisternas Reyes was awarded the National Human Rights Prize of Chile.

Judith Heumann

Position/Job: Disability Rights activist
Country: United States
Short Biography: Judith (Judy) Heumann is a lifelong advocate for the rights of disabled people. Judy previously served as President Obama’s first Special Advisor for International Disability Rights at the U.S. Department of State, where she served from 2010-2017. From 1993 to 2001, Judy served in the Clinton Administration as the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services in the Department of Education. She has played a role in the development and implementation of major legislation including the IDEA, Section 504, the Americans with Disability Act and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Her goal in life is to continue to advance the rights and empowerment of ALL disabled people around the world.

Haben Girma

Position/Job: Disability Rights Lawyer, Author, Speaker
Country: United States
Short Biography: The first Deafblind person to graduate from Harvard Law School, Haben Girma advocates for equal opportunities for people with disabilities. President Obama named her a White House Champion of Change. She received the Helen Keller Achievement Award, and a spot on Forbes 30 Under 30. Haben travels the world consulting and public speaking, teaching clients the benefits of fully accessible products and services. She’s a talented storyteller who helps people frame difference as an asset. She resisted society’s low expectations, choosing to create her own pioneering story. Haben is working on a book that will be published by Hachette in 2019.

Farida Gulamo

Position/Job: Disability Activist
Country: Mozambique
Short Biography: Farida Gulamo is a Mozambican disability activist and Director of Advocacy at ADEMO – Association of Disabled People of Mozambique.

She also serves as President of the Fiscal Council of FAMOD – Forum of Associations of People with Disabilities, Vice President of GAMA – Office of Counselling Women, Youth and Parents of Children with Disabilities, as well as President of the Paralympic Committee of Mozambique.

Ekaete Judith Umoh

Position/Job: Social inclusion & disability expert
Country: Nigeria
Short Biography: Ekaete Judith Umoh is an international disability rights activist committed to inclusive development for people with disabilities; founder/ Executive Director of Family Centered Initiative for Challenged Persons (FACICP); first elected female President of JONAPWD, the umbrella body of all disabled people’s organisations in Nigeria. She is the first elected woman with a disability to lead a mainstream women’s network, Global Fund for Women’s Grantees Network, and serves on the Board of African Disability Forum (ADF).

Find out more about the Awards here: