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Nellie Zabel Foundation

Establishing a Leadership School focusing on training and empowerment for Deaf Women
one woman is standing giving a presentation to a group of sitting women

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About the Organization

In 2017, a disability organization working in the city of Antofagasta, WENÜI, developed a project with the National Service for Women and Gender Equity that employed Deaf women to empower girls, young women and Deaf women. This project resulted in the establishment of Nellie Zabel Foundation for Deaf women on December 12th , 2017. Nellie Zabel Foundation acquired formal government recognition on April 5th , 2018. The Nellie Zabel Foundation is an organization by and for Deaf women that engages in education and advocacy to promote the full and equal participation of women and girls in all aspects of Chilean society. Our motto “Pioneers of the Deaf Community” focuses on the women of Deaf Community who carry out work in different areas of human development such as education, justice, health, culture, politics, sports and all areas in which we as women make significant contributions to our communities. We build support networks for Deaf women with limited resources, indigenous, vulnerable or disabled.

Click here to show & hide the English transcript with descriptions

[Description: A woman is facing directly at the camera, signing. She is sitting in a room with pink and green wall backgrounds.]

Hello; my name in sign is “Vianney”, I am president of the Nellie Zabel Foundation of Chile in South America. Our organization is working to bring together Deaf women to empower them and build strength, not only for Deaf women but also to help other groups such as indigenous women, migrant women, poor women and women with disabilities. We think it is important that all women join together to work as a team in a network to achieve greater respect for women’s rights. Deaf people wonder who is Nellie Zabel? She was the first female Deaf Aviator who got her license to fly planes- for us this is admirable and means that she is a pioneer, an example for other women. That’s why we chose her name, as a way to honor her among women, aviators and the Deaf world. What is the MNI project? We, the women of the Deaf Community have shared and understood that Deaf women still need to learn about issues related to leadership, how they can learn to summon their team to generate projects, how they can exert their influence in political issues and also on legal issues, as women can exercise advocacy to change the law, change policies so that the government generates a better quality of life for women. Along these same lines, women should be trained to learn about legislation- for example, gender violence issues, how lawyers work, how they can obtain justice, so that they can help other Deaf women as well as women who are victims of discrimination, so that they can give them support and advice so they fight for their rights. For example, also in health issues; in the hospital with the doctors because there is no accessibility through interpreters, they wonder how they can fight to achieve it, they must learn how a legal or normative change can be achieved, so that the right is respected and interpreters can be provided. We understand that we should not go to pressure immediately but rather we should train in a “school” that teaches us about laws, policies, television, written media, observe different situations, health, and so on. That knowledge develops power that allows them at that time to face and defend the rights of women. Our Foundation would like to thank WENÜII who are also supporting us so that we can prepare, make plans, coordinate financial resources, and give us their support to apply. In our project we were inspired by “Nellie” and baptized our project with the name “Flight Lessons”; now we want to show the strong women of our team of the “Nellie Zabel” Foundation

Click here to show & hide the Spanish transcript with descriptions

[Description: Una mujer está mirando directamente a la cámara, firmando. Ella está sentada en una habitación con fondos de pared rosa y verde.]

Nuestro Objetivo
Hola; mi nombre en señas es “Vianney”, Soy presidente de la Fundación Nellie Zabel, de Chile en América del Sur. Nuestra organización está trabajando para agrupar a las mujeres Sordas para empoderarlas y construir fortalezas, no sólo para las mujeres Sordas sino también ayudar a otros grupos como las mujeres indígenas, las mujeres migrantes, las mujeres pobres, las mujeres con Discapacidad, pensamos que es importante que todas las mujeres se unan para trabajar en equipo, en red para logra mayor respeto a los derechos de las mujeres.
Nuestra Inspiración
Las personas Sordas se preguntan ¿Quién es Nellie Zabel? Fue la primera mujer Sorda aviadora que logró su licencia para pilotar aviones, para nosotros esto es admirable significa que ella es una pionera, un ejemplo para otras mujeres, por eso escogimos su nombre, como una forma de rendirle honor entre las mujeres, las aviadoras y el mundo sordo.
Nuestro Proyecto
El proyecto MNI ¿En qué consiste? En que nosotras las mujeres Sordas y también las mujeres de la Comunidad Sorda hemos compartido y comprendido que a las mujeres Sordas les falta aprender temas relacionados con el liderazgo, como pueden aprender a convocar a su equipo para generar proyectos, como pueden ejercer su influencia en temas políticos y también en temas legales, como las mujeres pueden ejercer incidencia para cambiar la ley, cambiar las políticas para que el gobierno genere una mejor calidad de vida para las mujeres. En esta misma línea se debe capacitar a las mujeres para que aprender acerca de la legislación por ejemplo en temas de violencia de género, que las mujeres aprendan como trabajan los abogados, como pueden obtener justicia, para que a su vez puedan ayudar a otras mujeres sordas así como mujeres que son víctimas de discriminación, para que les puedan dar apoyo y consejos, para que luchen por sus derechos. Por ejemplo también en las temáticas de salud; en el hospital con los médicos porque no hay accesibilidad a través de intérpretes , se preguntan como pueden luchar para lograrlo, deben aprender como se puede lograr un cambio legal o normativo, para que se respete el derecho y puedan proveerse interpretes. Nosotras entendendemos que no debemos ir de inmediato a hacer presión sino que antes debemos capacitarnos en una “escuela” que nos enseñe de leyes, de políticas, de televisión, de los medios escritos, observar distintas situaciones, la salud, que se desarrolle un conocimiento potente que les permita en ese momento, poder enfrentarse y defender los derechos de las mujeres.
Nuestra Fundación quiere aprovechar de agradecer a WENÜII quiénes también nos están apoyando para que podamos prepararnos, hacer planes, coordinar recursos financieros, nos dio su apoyo para postular.
En nuestro proyecto nos inspiramos en “Nellie” y bautizamos nuestro proyecto con el nombre “Lecciones de vuelo”; ahora queremos mostrarles a las mujeres fuertes de nuestro equipo de la Fundación “Nellie Zabel”

For the Nellie Zabel Foundation, Vianney Sierralta Aracena is the legal representative, Mariela Morales is the financial director, Catherine Sanchez is her attorney and vice president, Katherine Araya is the executive secretary and Katia Herrera is the director. They are working with a team of vibrant collaborators in the areas of public relations, training and social networks.

Check out their Facebook page for more information about their work in the community at

About the Project

Nellie Zabel Foundation (NZF) has seen the lack of recognition of Deaf women as autonomous and independent leaders in various areas of social development. The expectations persist in Chile that women should remain dependents. In the specific case of Deaf women, this dependence is exacerbated. Deaf women doubt their own leadership abilities and lack the tools to lead changes on their own. Chilean Deaf women have not had the opportunity to participate in the training and empowerment programs because these workshops are inaccessible and fail to take into account the unique characteristics of Deaf culture or do not engage in outreach in rural parts of the country.

Update #1

To combat this issue, NZF and WENÜI collaborated with strong Deaf women in the 2nd Region to empower and strengthen the leadership of Deaf women in our country through our project ‘Flight Lessons: Pioneers of the Deaf Community.’ We established a Leadership School for Deaf women mainly for social change in our national Deaf Community and to indicate a starting point that allows for the replication of this training program throughout the country. The aim was for participation of Deaf women in all areas of social development as a contribution to the development of the country and gender equity. We hosted a Gender Equality and Cultural Change Conference that provided a space for reflection and positive action on the part of the male leaders of the Deaf Community with respect to the empowerment of women in their community. This national seminar shared the lessons learned but also highlighted the present, past and future contributions of the Chilean Deaf women to society in the 15 regions of Chile.

On April 5, 2019, the Nellie Zabel Foundation celebrated one year of our legal recognition. We thank all our pioneering and deaf women who have contributed to visualize the rights of Deaf women in Chile. Also to our partners and friends who have been with us since our flight!

If you are interested in learning more about how you can support the Nellie Zabel Foundation, please email them at [email protected]

More Projects To Explore

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