Samantha Pace Gasan has just been named the new Commissioner for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. At just 27, Pace Gasan has left her mark on Malta through grassroots activism – heralding minority rights, better sexual health and advocacy for diversity.
But beyond her professional achievements, it’s her perseverance despite a near-death experience that makes her an inspiration to watch.
Meet Samatha Pace Gasan, Malta’s second-ever Disabilities Commissioner.
“I try to make a difference in people’s lives, leave an impact. I feel responsible to contribute to a better world. If we all try and do one good deed for each other we will touch the hearts of many and the world will be a better place,” Pace Gasan wrote online.
1. Pace Gasan entered the world of activism at a young age, starting off in Malta Girl Guides.
During this time, she formed part of various committees on diversity to promote the rights of minorities. She went on to form part of other NGOs and groups like the National Board, where she represented youths.
2. Heading the National Youth Council in 2015, Pace Gasan most notably pushed for better sexual health policies.
Her group advocated for the age of marriage to be raised from 16 to 18, free condoms in popular places like Paceville and sexual health clinics in post-secondary schools and Gozo – the latter still left without one today.
3. She graduated from University in 2016, reading a degree in Social Policy and forming part of student group Studenti Ħarsien Soċjali.
Meanwhile, she helped found the Network of Young Women Leaders, to help women from all walks of life reach their leadership potential. She now holds a Masters in Creativity and Innovation.
Before her appointment as Commissioner, Gasan Pace made a career working for entities like MEUSAC, which helps organisations secure European funds, as well as the Faculty of Social Well-Being at the University of Malta where she worked as a researcher.
4. In 2020, she joined her university colleagues to research the impact of the pandemic on people with disabilities. People like her and her sister.
Just a few months ago, her younger sister, Naomi Pace Gasan, who has Down Syndrome, had a taste of what being Prime Minister is like, shadowing him through a day’s work. She used the platform to call for more support for people with disabilities to enter the workforce.
5. Beyond her ambition for social progress, it is Samantha’s determination in the face of personal hurdles that is truly inspiring.
“Recently, in 2018, I had to be admitted to hospital for an urgent operation, I came close to death. It changed my life completely. I ruptured my main artery. I was diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome – a condition that affects the connective tissues in the body,” Pace Gasan said.
6. She ended up having a mild stroke that left her with visual impairments in her right eye.
“It could have been worse because it could have affected half my body. I don’t say: ‘Look what has happened to me’ because you cannot dwell on what happens to you but you need to go on. It could happen to anyone.”
“I accepted my disability, it is part of my identity. I have my own personality, the things I love, perseverance, the resilience to go on. Although I do live in fear, I remind myself that worry will not change anything and I want to live.”
7. Above all, Malta’s new Commissioner for People with Disabilities believes in the little things, to change things and people around her.
“And now, after all I’ve been through, more than ever. A simple smile, a hug, a positive message could have a huge impact on somebody. I encourage others with simple acts. Life is beautiful. My dreams? I dream of leaving an impact on others. To live a simple life and touch the hearts of others.”