My name is Zara Todd. I am a disability activist from the UK and I am delighted to announce that I have been appointed the new Director of the European Network on Independent Living – ENIL. In the UK, I have worked with disabled people’s organisations, centres for independent living and disability charities, as well as local, regional and national governments. I have specialised in disability policy, capacity building and participation. I am passionate about creating inclusive spaces, which support everyone to have choices. I have been involved in ENIL since 2011, running a large number of trainings for the organisation. I am one of the founding members of ENIL’s Youth Network and currently its Chair.
For someone as passionate as me about disability rights and equity, the opportunity to become a leader of an organisation as dedicated to those things as I am is exciting. I’m looking forward to joining ENIL’s amazing staff team and I will be based in the Brussels office (even if I have to admit Brussels accessibility scares me a bit).
ENIL’s long history in advocating for independent living and human rights is what drew me to the organisation and I aim to continue and build on those traditions. I will start working for ENIL in September and will formally take over from Jamie Bolling in October, so I hope to see many of you at the Freedom Drive.
Europe is entering a time of great uncertainty, but also opportunity.As incoming Director, it is my responsibility to ensure that the organisation continues to grow and adapt in a way which builds upon the tremendous work that Jamie, Peter, Martin and many others have done over the last 27 years.
Going forward, I see ENIL’s work being encapsulated by 4 phrases: Connect, Capacity build, Campaign and Champion.
What do they mean in practice?
ENIL has a key role in enabling our members – both organisations and individuals – to connect, share experiences and good practice. Our grassroots membership is one of our greatest strengths and we need to make sure our work is driven by that and that we continue to connect lived experience to policy making at a European level.
Personally, it has been a pleasure to have been involved in much of ENIL’s capacity building work over the past few years. It is essential that we find more ways to support disabled people and our organisations to gain skills and confidence needed to lead change and advocate for our rights. We want every country in Europe to have people and organisations equipped with the necessary skills, expertise and confidence to campaign for and promote independent living. For me, capacity building is also about ensuring that ENIL internally has the policies and procedures to allow us to grow and embrace opportunities when they appear.
We must maintain a strong voice in demanding independent living in Europe. We need to be campaigning against poor practices and ensuring that disabled people and our organisations are heard. We will continue calling for deinstitutionalisation, personal assistance and choice and control for disabled people. We wall campaign for the full implementation of the CRPD across Europe.
Independent living is under threat in many countries. We must champion disabled people’s rights to have choice and control over their lives and to be part of their communities. ENIL will champion independent living in research, publications and toolkits. We will promote case studies, seek and support innovation and share practices around independent living.
I see these areas as key to achieving my vision for Europe, as a place where independent living is a right and not a fight for all disabled people, where we have choice and control over our lives and can be active members of our communities, without experiencing barriers. I am looking forward to working with you: our members, partners and allies to realise this over the coming years.