HERstoryForVAWG: Bette Levy

Ananke’s HERstory series showcases Bette Levy – an eminent US-based advocate with a focus on disabilities, domestic violence and more.

As far as my advocacy work, I’d say it’s in my blood. I learnt it from my parents especially my father.  It has been a lifelong passion. I began my journey quite young around 12 years old and I have continued volunteering with people with disabilities (physical and mental challenges) throughout high school and college. My need to help those without a voice became strong and more pronounced as I grew older and began to understand the issues more. My professional career started in Washington, DC and I honed my advocacy skills because I had the ability to meet with legislators and staff at the national headquarters of many professional organizations. I even participated in the very early days of Special Olympics. When I moved back to New York, I began to work at the NYS Office of Mental Health (for 38 years). I worked with children who lived in poverty with a single head of household,  many children were victims of domestic violence or witnessed their mother or siblings be abused… my expertise and passion became the developing of peer support networks…

I amalso a member of Soroptimist International (SI), a global volunteer movement working together to transform the lives of women and girls. Soroptimist International and our four (4) Federations (Soroptimist International of the Americas, Soroptimist International of Europe, Soroptimist International of Great Britain & Ireland and Soroptimist International of the South West Pacific) is a network comprised of over 75,000 club members in 122 countries and territories, in 3000 communities world-wide working together to Educate, Empower and Enable opportunities for women and girls at a local, national and international level. I am the SI Main Representative to the United Nations/New York Centre.

Last week I had the opportunity to help the Soroptimist’s on the island of Saint Martin pay tribute to women who had lost their lives due to domestic violence, in fact just two weeks earlier a woman was killed as she stepped in between her sister and her intimate partner.

I am also an UN Representative for the World Federation for Mental Health. The mission of the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) is to promote the advancement of mental health awareness, prevention of mental disorders, advocacy, and best practice recovery focused interventions worldwide. At the UN, WFMH advocates that mental illness and disability shall be equally represented with physical illness in the proceedings and resolutions of the United Nations, the World Bank and the World Health Organization, and through them of governments.

In these roles at the UN, I actively participate in the planning for NGO and civil society participation at a number of NGO committees, work or task groups.

Here in New York, I participate in a number of NGO committees, work groups and coalitions; included are:  UN2020 Summit core group, the NGO Committee on Social Development, the NGO Committee on Mental Health, the Working Group on Girls, the NGO Committee for Education, Learning & Literacy (CELL), and the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development. I was a founding member of the Coalition for Global Citizenship 2030. I am the former Vice Chair of the NGO Committee on the Status of Women (CSW) and co-chair of Planning for the NGO CSW 60 & 61 Forum. I am also the former co-chair of the Global Coordinating Committee of the NGO CSW committees in the regions and for the Capacity Building Advocacy Training grant.

I am an active member of the Women’s Major Group since 2011 and am also involved with the NGO Major Group. I actively participate with the HLPF Coordinating Mechanism and have chaired the Orientation meeting  task group for Civil Society pre-HLPF in 2018.

I’m a member of the TAP Network and Together2030, United Nations Association, Metro Chapter.

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