Watch Young Voices campaigners Ashura from Kenya, Tongai from Zimbabwe and Kartik from India speaking in this really inspiring Activate session organised by UNICEF on ‘Youth with disabilities and innovation: making the world inclusive for all‘. The Young Voices campaigners were in New York last week for the Conference of States Parties to the UNCRPD.
The campaigners gave motivational speeches about their own experience of disability, and the importance for education for children with disabilities. They also spoke about the barriers that prevent people with disabilities reaching their goals, such as discrimination and exclusion, and highlighted what can be achieved when these barriers are removed.
By speaking from their own experience and showing that people with disabilities can be inspirational role models, the campaigners transformed the way the schoolchildren and their teachers see disability. Teachers at one of the schools said that they felt challenged to hear that Young Voices campaigners were achieving a higher level of education than they had reached themselves by doing post-graduate studies. This helped them to appreciate the value of educating children with disabilities.
The campaigners have already changed the views of over 12,000 people. But the tours are having an even great impact, with many of those who attended going on to raise awareness of disability within their families and communities.
Young Voices campaigners continue to make striking impact while campaigning for the promotion, protection and respect of the rights of persons with disabilities and ensuring the creation of a barrier free world. At the Global Meeting held in Kenya, Nairobi from the 22nd – 25th October 2013 – Young Voices were able to share their successes, challenges, and ideas to boost and sustain their course of action. Here are some of their main successes of positive changes and plans for the future.
As a direct result of Young Voices campaign, advocacy, and lobbying activities in various nations such as Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, Uganda, and the Philippines, Young Voices campaigners have experienced positive changes in their individual lives and as a group. In Mauritius many secured employment, acquired professional and vocational skills, and those disabled from birth received free life medical certificates. In Zimbabwe the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was ratified, Inclusive Education and persons with disabilities have become a priority. In Uganda, Young Voices members received vocational training through networking and dialogue with various stakeholders, and many have been opening their own businesses.
Young Voices meetings in many nations have created a family bond between the members which has resulted in them sharing successes, challenges, ideas, and experiences. One of the Young Voices campaigners had the following to say: “When we started our Young Voices activities most of us did not have confidence in ourselves, nor were we able to express ourselves. We were like strangers to each other, but now all that is water under the bridge. I can even talk to the President.” This has also resulted in Young Voices having confidence, faith in themselves and being motivated to continue to stand and speak out where persons with disabilities matter.
Various factors and campaign activities contributed to the attainment of the aforementioned achievements. These included public engagements where Young Voices use artistic means such as songs, dramas, dances and motivational speeches to communicate their course. In some countries Young Voices conduct press conferences and sometimes dialogue with government institutions and officials. Other activities include regular meetings, awareness campaigns, and social media to mention but a few.
Much has been done but still more remains hence Young Voices from various nations have put forward several means, ideas, and approaches to sustain their campaigning activities. This includes effective and efficient use of media communication, especially basic ones such as social media networks, mobile phones, and networking and partnering with other disability organizations, NGOs and Youth Groups.
Young Voices campaigners have pledged to continue conducting their regular meetings and facilitating partnerships with the government. Above all they will continue making a clarion call to the whole world to chip in in this humane cause, so that together we can make the world a better place for all, with or without a disability.
Young Voices campaigners Tongai from Zimbabwe (pictured) and Markson from Zambia gave presentations about Young Voices and the CRPD at disability inclusion training workshops hosted by Plan Zimbabwe and Plan Zambia, funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD).
Sue Coe, a disability and development expert who facilitated the workshops said: “The sessions led by Tongai and Markson added an extra, valuable dimension. Their clear focus and knowledge on CRPD definitely helped the participants.”
Courage Nyamhunga, a Young Voices member from Zimbabwe, has been admitted onto the 2013 ‘Discovering Young Leaders’ programme during August and September, organised by the Commonwealth Youth Forum. This follows on from his attendance at 18th Commonwealth Conference on Education held in Mauritius last year.
The programme is an online interactive forum that will inspire, empower and expose young people to views and concepts of leadership, global trends in youth empowerment and the principles of youth development across the Commonwealth. Participants include leaders of youth organisations, aspiring youth leaders, and heads and members of National Youth Councils and youth associations/clubs.
Young Voices campaigners in Zimbabwe captured the demands of people with disabilities and their expectations of the new Zimbabwean constitution in a consultation they arranged with DPOs, civil society organisations and Young Voices campaigners. They developed a position paper from the consultation that was submitted to the Advisor to the President and Cabinet on Disability issues.
The final draft of the constitution was published in January 2013, and in a March referendum it was voted for by 94% of the population. Five of the seven recommendations made by Young Voices in the position paper were taken forward in the new constitution. These are:
1. People with disabilities were included and participated in the process of drafting the constitution.
2. The constitution has a clause stating that government will create programmes for the employment of people with disabilities.
3. The constitution mainstreams disability in various national socio – economic and cultural programmes.
4. The constitution encourages the use of forms of communication accessible to people with disabilities.
5. Sign language is to be made an official language.
Young Voices campaigner speaks out about access to secondary education for students with disabilities
Munyaradzi Mahiya, Young Voices campaigner and a Senator of the Junior Parliament in Zimbabwe, has spoken out about the challenges faced by students with disabilities in Zimbabwe in an interview with the Zimbabwe Herald.
“In Zimbabwe access to secondary education for students with disabilities has become a challenge which continues to rise almost every day” he said. “The situation has worsened because they are few secondary schools that cater for students with disabilities and most schools still remain inaccessible due to infrastructure problems.”
Young Voices campaigner Chiedza Knomazna was featured in Newsday, the Zimbabwean daily newspaper. The article highlighted the work of Young Voices, and spoke about Chiedza’s recent visit to the UN in New York where she addressed an international audience. As the article says, Chiedza has ‘lived up to the adage that disability is not inability’. She was crowned Miss Disability Harare first princess in 2011, has a diploma in Diamond Cutting and Polishing and is currently furthering her studies in Information Technology. She also plays wheelchair basketball for the best team in Zimbabwe, Wolves, which has won six consecutive championships for the past six years.