This is a guest post by Olley Edwards
November 6 2014 Autism Women Matter flew out to Geneva to take part in the Beijing +20 Review. Autism Women Matter with many professionals who are in a position to help the voices, needs and equality of women and girls with autism, for their needs to be met . Autism Daily Newscast reported on Olley Edwards and Monique Blakemore preparing for the UN, which can be read here.
Monique Blakemore and Olley Edwards left Heathrow at 7am and arrived at the United Nations for 9.30 am that day and quickly got to work listening to speakers, meeting new people and spreading the word on Autism Women Matters overall aims. We had the pleasure of meeting Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, Secretary General of World Young Women Christian Association (YWCA), who is also President of the NGO Committee on the Status of Women, who was such a warm and kind lady who invited myself immediately to a private meeting with Phumzile Mlambo, Executive Director of UN Women and Ex Vice President to Nelson Mandela with young women leaders. I was overjoyed to be considered to attend and was in awe of the achievements and ethos of the women around me.
Phumzile Mlambo told myself and the young women leaders, “You are the ones to break barriers.” I now take this advice with me with everyday. Whilst the Young Women leaders meeting took place , Monique Blakemore had a meeting with Lyda Verstegen from The International Alliance of Women, Monique and Lyda spent a long time discussing the needs of Autism women and girls and secured further global events to ensure the voices of women and girls with autism continue to be addressed on a global scale. Lyda Verstegen from The International Alliance of Women wrote .
“I was very much impressed by the feeling of being excluded of the participants and that therefor it was so important for them to get a diagnosis, and belong to ´the tribe’.”
After such a productive day Monique and I were invited to the evening reception which was a well deserved treat, however a fairly early exit was required as Autism Women Matter’s speech was at 8.30am the following day .
On the morning of the speech there was very little time for nerves, Monique, Dena and myself prepared the room and it was very soon time to start, First to speak was Adeline Lacroix, teacher and Alliance Autiste, from France who spoke with grace and clarity about her life prior to diagnosis and how a late Asperger diagnosis had affected those circumstances. Next to talk was Dena Gassner, MSW serving boards for the Arc US and GRASP who is also a wife and mother who was diagnosed after her son. She brought a message of the massive underdiagnosis of women and girls from the US where doors are finally opening and professionals are realizing that early diagnosis often misses girls.She told:
“When we focus on children age 8 or younger who can still stay afloat with less challenging, less complex social expectations. However, the cost can me misdiagnosis, maltreatment, and even date tape and domestic abuse as a woman tries to navigate her teens and adulthood. Understanding self, within the framework of ASD is crucial for personal achievement and enhanced wellness.”
“Autism Women Matter has only been created just over 12 months, our aims were to raise support for both Autistic females and to support the professionals that work with and for Autistic females. To be able to take this to an international level in such a short space of time is truly beyond our expectations, but with the hard work of Monique Blakemore’s vision and all our blinkered interest to make these goals happen, it happened.
Autism Women Matter have been and still are an unfunded group, we are truly thankful for the organisations that have shared our vision and opened doors to make inequality for Autism females a statement of the past. I am personally very grateful to the support of my family whom without, this could not have happen. Talking at the UN is an experience, It was a very full circle moment and that will always be one of my happiest memories. I was nervous and remained professional until I had to read a letter that my 12 year old daughter asked me to read at the UN, I cried at that point, but it was happy tears that she was born in a generation of faster diagnosis of girls and has been relieved of the confusion the undiagnosed generations experience .
Monique and I, and all who support Autism Women Matter will keep our promise to ensure that autism women and girls are understood, respected and safeguarded on a global scale, the next event being the world human rights forum in Marrakech . I told my daughters that I would go to the ends of the earth for them and for girls like them. I literally keep promises”
Olley Edwards is a British film maker, model and actress who was recently diagnosed with Asperger’s. She has three girls, two of whom are on the autism spectrum. She is a relentless campaigner and spokeswoman on the subject of autism and girls.