Helga Stevens, Europe's Most veteran Deaf Politician

Helga Stevens has held political positions for more than 15 years: from the Flemish Parliament to the European Parliament and the Belgian Senate. Helga is, to this day, the most veteran Sign Language Deaf politician in Europe and probably one of the most veteran in the world as well

Helga Stevens (foto: The Parliament Magazine / Natalie Hill)


Always First in Everything

Helga's family did not discover that their daughter was deaf until she was 10 months old. When she met a deaf lawyer in the United States, she decided that she wanted to study law as well and became the first Deaf lawyer in Belgium. She completed her studies with a Master of Laws at the University of California.

It is difficult to summarise Helga's extensive political career in a few lines, but it could be done in everything she achieved for the first time in history, besides being the first Deaf lawyer in Belgium1999: first Deaf candidate to the Belgian Senate.
  • 2004: first Deaf person to become a member of the Flemish Parliament.
  • 2005: First female President of the European Union of the Deaf (EUD).
  • 2006: First Deaf person to become a member of the Ghent municipal council.
  • 2007: First Deaf person to become a member of the Belgian Federal Parliament.
  • 2014: The first Deaf woman to become a member of the European Parliament.
  • 2017: First deaf person to run for President of the European Parliament.
In the following video you can see a young Helga 11 years ago when she was a Flemish MP giving a welcome speech in Sign Language:



One of Europe's Brightest Women Leaders

PlayGround, in Spanish, elected her in 2017 as one of the most brilliant women in Europe, when she was a candidate for the presidency of the European Parliament, noting that her intervention, in Sign Language, left a mark on the Parliament. In the following video you can see her candidacy:


Of course, Helga is a staunch defender of the rights of people with disabilities and deaf people, but she has also been involved in many issues such as Brexit, the independence of Catalonia or the future of the Internet in Europe.



Today

After retiring as an MEP in 2019, she is now director of Doof Vlaanderen which is the most representative organisation of deaf people in Flemish Belgium. Let's remember that Belgium is divided into three regions: Flemish Region (to the north), Walloon Region (to the south) and Brussels-Capital Region, each of which has its regional governments and administrative entities under a federal government, which manages foreign affairs, development aid, defence, police, management of the economy, social welfare, transport, energy, telecommunications and scientific research, among others.

Helga therefore works in the Flemish region because, in line with her principles, she has always been an advocate of Flemish independence from Belgium. In fact, Helga belongs to the New Flemish Alliance party (N-VA), a conservative, right-wing party founded in autumn 2001, which promotes independence and advocates the peaceful separation of Flanders from Belgium.


Anyone can more or less agree with her or his political ideas, but there is no denying that Helga has been involved in all kinds of issues of interest to citizens, not only in matters relating to disability or accessibility. Only in the 8th parliamentary term of the European Parliament, Helga was involved in issues as varied as social security, reconciliation of personal and professional life, internal security, terrorism or the rights of intersex people.

You can follow Helga on any of her social media:



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