Successes over the years: Young Voices campaigners

This article was put together by Young Voices campaigners during the 2013 Young Voices Global meeting in Kenya.

Leonard Cheshire Disability Young Voices, a group of young persons with disabilities, gathered in Nairobi, Kenya for their global meeting on 23rd – 25th October 2013. This meeting was attended by 22 young people with disabilities from different countries around the globe. The aim of the meeting was to “advocate and campaign to remove all the barriers that hinder an inclusive and accessible society for all”.

As part of the meeting, Young Voices campaigners shared changes and successes. Some of the campaigners said that the main change in their lives was greater confidence in themselves, when previously they felt that they had to hide.

According to Mr. Sadaati Namboobi, a 23 year old from Uganda: “lots of persons with disabilities have come out and advocated for their rights; this has improved the welfare of persons with disabilities in Uganda.”

According to Ms. Rukiatu Sheriff, 24, from Liberia, the factors that lead to those positive changes include the willingness of young people with disabilities to fight for rights: “We’ve come up to these changes because of the willingness of my colleagues to advocate and campaign for our rights.” Rukiatu added.

In Indonesia, their campaigns were successful because of campaign spirit and dreams of the Young Voices there. Young Voices want to be counted and to be involved in any issues and events in the country. Mr. Sikmad form Indonesia said: “As a result of our campaigns, ramps were established for wheelchair users, signs were put up for people with hearing impairments, and personnel were hired to guide visually impaired people at malls and other public areas in Indonesia.”

Young Voices groups could be sustained in the future with support from Government or non-governmental organisations, for example Action for Disability Development or UNAPD in Uganda.

Editors: Isabel Kila, Papua New Guinea; Sadaati Namboobi, Uganda; Rukiatu Sherrif, Liberia; Kevin Paul Palaca, Philippines.

Scholarships for people with disabilities in Liberia

J Swaray Kolleh

My name is J Swaray Kolleh and I am a member of Young Voices Bopolu, Liberia. I have a physical disability and am unable to hold anything with my right arm. Before joining Young Voices I rarely went out in public and my parents always thought of me as a burden. I am now the secretary of Young Voices Bopolu. I chair meetings, plan campaign strategies with the group, and meet with local and national authorities. It’s really built my confidence.

Recently we found out that of all the scholarships awarded in the county of Bopolu, not one has gone to a disabled person. We have been very persistent in campaigning to change this, using Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – the right to education. We have lobbied the county authorities and built support among people who have influence with the District Representative.

As a result, a Scholarship position at the SMART Institute College in Monrovia was awarded to Young Voices Bopolu. The scholarship is going to me. I’m so excited and my parents are really proud. I can’t believe that I’m leaving Bopolu to attend college in Monrovia.

But our campaigning doesn’t stop there. We are currently advocating for the County’s scholarship committee to approve our resolution that 15% of all scholarship programs are awarded to people with disabilities.

Talented Liberia Young Voices members to produce their own music

Sting, Adele, Young Voices… What these musicians have in common is that they have worked with top UK music producer Robin Millar and his team. During the first week of December Robin led an intensive week-long studio training seminar in Zambia for musically talented Young Voices members from Kenya, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Zambia. Using professional equipment, they learned how to produce their own songs, which will be released globally via Itunes and Amazon.

The music training project was launched in response to Young Voices members’ own desire to express themselves and their campaigning messages through music. Many Young Voices groups have already recorded songs and music videos, and we plan to roll out the music project across Africa and Asia.

At the same time, other Young Voices members from across Africa honed their campaigning skills at the Africa regional workshop. Speaking of his experience, Sierra Leone Young Voices member John Conteh said, ‘since joining Young Voices, I have had hope and freedom after total neglect. Young Voices has sent me to a studio, which I had never expected to visit… I long to share the experience I will gain from the workshop with the Sierra Leone group when I return. I hope to become an international superstar for Sierra Leone Young Voices.’

Posted in Liberia, Young Voices News and tagged

Young Voices run a meeting at UN in New York

During the first week of September members of Leonard Cheshire Disability’s Young Voices programme took part in a once in a lifetime trip to the United Nations headquarters in New York to showcase their work advocating for the rights of disabled people around the world. Joining hundreds of international representatives, Young Voices members from Liberia, the Philippines and Canada presented at the UN Conference of State Parties, which assessed world progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. At the Young Voices Side Event – which was co-sponsored by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs – they played their own campaigning films and audio recordings. Gopal Mitra, Young Voices Co-ordinator, moderated the event and Nolan Quigley, International Policy and Campaigns Manager, accompanied the Young Voices in New York.

Posted in Global, Liberia, Philippines and tagged

UN Conference of State Parties Side Event

Young Voices members took part in a side event at the United Nations Conference of State Parties in New York on 1st September, which was co-sponsored by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. After an opening statement by the UN Focal Point on Youth, young people with disabilities from Liberia, Philippines, Sierra Leone and Canada showcased their advocacy work on bringing the UNCRPD to life in their countries. Short films and disability rights songs made by Young Voices members were presented, offering an exciting insight into how young people with disabilities are campaigning for full human rights around the world.