Youth-led advocacy: Young people lobby their governments in support of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities to life
Young people with disabilities have ideas, passion and experience. They also have stories that they want to tell the world. Groups of young people with disabilities from 18 countries have been able to do this through the Young Voices initiative of the Leonard Cheshire Disability Global Alliance.
Young people make up more than half the population in many developing countries and yet they are rarely consulted, this is even more so for young people with disabilities whose voices often remain unheard.
The Young Voices programme brings together young people with disabilities and gives them the opportunity to share their views and experiences; learn about the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and enables them to build their capacities to effectively lobby and campaign for their human rights.
Young Voices began as a project in 2005 when young people with disabilities from 12 countries were consulted and came together to raise their issues during the drafting of the landmark UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). These young people actively contributed and even attended some of the ad-hoc committee meetings of the UN in New York, where they also organised a side event.
Now that the UNCRPD has come into force, these groups are actively engaging with their Governments for the signing, ratification and the domestication of the Convention. Existing groups have been strengthened and new groups are being formed in 18 countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas. Their efforts have brought successes and the opportunity to participate and make themselves heard, have tremendously enhanced their self confidence and strengthened their resolve.
Sri Lanka signed the UN Convention after the Young Voices members met with the Prime Minister and lobbied other ministers. The groups are now actively lobbying various ministries to ensure that the government ratifies and implements the UNCRPD. The Young Voices groups have been actively using the media to highlight disability issues, raise awareness of the UNCRPD and promote disability rights.
In Liberia, Sudan and other countries, the groups regularly take part in radio and TV talk shows, including the UN radio. The Young Voices group members even attended their Parliament when the Bill on the UNCRPD was being discussed in Liberia.
In Swaziland, group members are using theatre to let the community and others know about various articles and provisions of the UNCRPD.
In several countries including Guyana, Young Voices groups are invited by the government and in some instances even the UN to speak about issues of disability and raise awareness through their various programmes and events.
In Malaysia, the Young Voices members have been conducting disability equality training for government officials and are meeting ministers and bureaucrats to increase accessibility of public buildings, especially educational institutions.
The Young Voices groups have been meeting regionally and globally to share their views and draw up future campaign plans. Group members of the Asian Young Voices countries met in Bangalore in December 2008. Young Voices representatives from 12 African countries met in Nairobi in March 2009¸ where they made presentations at the African Commonwealth Conference on Disability.
Watch short films made by Young Voices members here: http://www.lcint.org/?lid=4661
[Source: Leonard Cheshire Disability
News from: Visit: http://www.crin.org/resources/infodetail.asp?id=20177
Quotes from young people
Children representing the Young Voices network talk about their experiences and what they have been doing to advocate for the rights of children with disabilities in the quotes below.
Tio: Young Voice, Ethiopia
“Even though education is one of the main goals in life, we don’t get a chance….classrooms, libraries, dorms, cafeterias- nothing is accessible….asking for overnight change may not be realistic but simple solutions like shifting some classrooms downstairs when required and ensuring that new buildings are accessible is not asking for too much…people with disabilities just need an opportunity”
“I feel great satisfaction and fulfilment by being able to go out every day, work and do something, feel needed and useful”
Gurston : Young Voice, Kenya
“As young people with disabilities, we don’t want to just sit and do nothing…. We always want to contribute and do something… disability is not inability”
Yellamma: Young Voice, India
“After the video training in Ethiopia, when I was trying to make a film, I spoke to Rosaline who was being denied higher education as a person with disability. Her college was inaccessible so the college authorities were apprehensive of whether it would be okay to admit her. That the college is not accessible is not Rosaline's fault. So why should she pay for it or suffer for it? It is time that our leaders think about these basic questions. In case they don't, we as young disabled people will make them think about them by talking to them and making them realize that we have made them leaders to take care of our problems. I could see myself in Rosaline's place only a couple of years back when I faced the same problem because the college was not accessible. Things haven't changed much, but whether it will change in future or not depends greatly on us. If we want it to change, it will change and we can make it happen.”
Ranjana: Young Voice, Sri Lanka
“As Young Voices we have been undertaking a number of activities at divisional, district, provincial and national levels to maintain pressure and convince the government to ratify the UNCRPD. I had the chance to play a significant role in lobbying with our government to sign the UNCRPD. I met the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka in the Parliamentary complex and handed over a memorandum to expedite the ratification process. That was the red letter day [significant day] of my life. I had never thought that I would be able to meet our Prime Minister and demand that the rights of persons with disabilities in Sri Lanka are guaranteed. I made a speech on the UNCRPD in front of him. Three national newspapers published the same with pictures and my whole village and relatives, including my immediate family members, wished me well with open arms.”
Daintowon: Young Voice, Liberia
“The Young Voices Project in Liberia, along with the National Union of Organizations of the Disabled (NUOD) decided on the 12th of June to engage with our Government- mainly law makers- through parades, campaigns, interactions and the media (largely through radio talk shows as well as the newspapers) and to highlight discrimination across the country. With all these means being put into place, on the 14th of August 2008, we were invited to Session (Plenary) of the law makers to observe how the process was going to be, because the UNCRPD was on the agenda for that day, and the Bill was signed by the Lower House, which is the House of Representatives. And on the 28th of August 2008, the Convention was concurred by the Senate. Now, it has been sent to the President, Her Excellency Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, for her signature after which it will be ratified.”
Mohammed: Young Voice, Sierra Leone
“To us in the Young Voices of Sierra Leone, the UNCRPD is the greatest hope, assurance and guarantee that if ratified it will enable us to live a dignified life and allow us to put our disability behind us and mentally prepare us for the challenges that lie ahead. We are confident that this is the feeling that is being felt by every disabled person globally.”
[Source: Leonard Cheshire Disability]