Pensacola, Florida
Thursday December 18th 2014

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Outtakes 3/15/12

AN EXAMPLE FOR OTHERS They rolled her wheelchair into my office. Her left arm and leg were lost in a train accident 26 years ago. Her eyes were piercing, her smile warm. She lives by the motto—“Whatever you experience is an example to others.”

Safak Pavey is the first disabled woman elected to the Turkish Parliament.  After 15 years working for the United Nations High Commission on Refugees in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa, Pavey returned in June 2011 to take a seat with the opposition Republican People’s Party.

On March 8, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton honored Pavey and nine other women leaders from around the globe, by proclaiming them International Women of Courage.

“Şafak Pavey has tireless passion and she has brought that energy to work on behalf of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” said Secretary Clinton at the awards ceremony. “She has transformed her disability into a strength. Wherever she travels, she is bringing attention to the issues that affect persons with disabilities, vulnerable populations, women, children, and minorities.”

This small woman is a hero, and thanks to the Gulf Coast Diplomacy Council, she was in Pensacola and the IN offices. With a smile, Pavey explained how in her society her disabilities aren’t accepted, particularly not in the public eye. She returned to Turkey to hold office because she sees this as a critical time.

“Friends and journalists are being detained without charges,” Pavey said. “Any democracy must have a strong opposition. I was hoping that with my 15 years of world traveling working for human rights that I could contribute.”

Secretary Clinton said of Pavey, “We really honor you because you are going beyond the expectations that were set for you in your life, and by doing so you are breaking down barriers not only for your fellow Turkish citizens but for women and men everywhere.”

Pavey understands that Turkey is recognized as a model for its region, but her expectations are higher. “The best way to move ahead in this global world is to keep the bar high when it comes to human rights,” she said.

“We have to change our culture. It does little good to pass a law against domestic violence if the culture of the police is to return the victim to a place where she was brutalized,” Pavey said. “There must be a shift in the mind set.”

As Pensacola comes to grips with its racial disparities, Pavey’s message could not come at a better time. We, too, need to set the bar high.