Young Voices at the Commonwealth Youth Forum

Ten Young Voices campaigners from Sri Lanka are participating in the 9th Commonwealth Youth Forum, which is taking place this week in Sri Lanka alongside the biannual Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. As well as participating in the discussions, they will be putting up an exhibit and hosting two side events on ‘The Power of Young Voices – an innovative approach to inclusive civic engagement focusing on young people with disabilities’.

Young Voices campaigners in Sri Lanka urge for the ratification of the UNCRPD

Young Voices campaigners from Sri Lanka met with the Minister of Youth Affairs and Skills Department in June 2013. The main aim of the meeting was to get the Minister’s support for the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), and turning the pending Disability Rights Bill into law as soon as possible.

The Sri Lankan government signed the UNCRPD in March 2007, but it has not yet been ratified by parliament. The Disability Rights Bill has been pending for the last 7 years. A commitment to these two laws would make a huge difference for disabled people in Sri Lanka.

The Minister responded very positively to their requests. During the meeting he telephoned the Minister of Social Services directly and asked him to take the steps required to ratify the UNCRPD. They agreed to speak again prior to the next cabinet meeting about what needed to be done to take this forward. The Minister also confirmed that he would be speaking to the President of Sri Lanka to get his support for ratifying the UNCRPD as soon as possible.

The Minister also agreed to nominate and sponsor Ishan Jalill, President of Young Voices Sri Lanka, to participate in the Malala Day events in July at the UN Headquarters in New York as one of the government representatives.

The Minister said that the government of Sri Lanka has identified the Young Voices movement as a leading, vibrant and effective initiative. They are very keen to support Young Voices and ensure the rights of people with disabilities in Sri Lanka are respected.

New music video calls for full inclusion of people with disabilities

The musical talents of two Sri Lankan Young Voices members burst onto the Internet this week through their music video ‘Don’t Make Us Socially Disabled’. Featuring an original song and live performances, the video was created at a music training workshop in Malaysia with award-winning music producer Robin Millar and his team. Along with talented Young Voices members from Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines, the Sri Lankan members learned to produce their own songs to use as campaigning tools. Please keep visiting this site for details of their new songs, which will be released on iTunes and Amazon thanks to a partnership with Believe Digital’s Zimbalam label.

Aiming high

Young Voices campaigners in Sri Lanka are determined to persuade their government to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and to raise awareness of the issues faced by people with disabilities to high level officials and ambassadors. Through sheer determination and hard work, they have managed to meet and speak to 15 high level Sri Lankan and foreign government representatives. Several of these officials have gone on to speak, write and lobby on the Young Voices’ behalf about disability issues and the need for full inclusion.

Congratulations and we wish you well Young Voices Sri Lanka!

Radio broadcasts around the world for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Young Voices groups in Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Sri Lanka spoke on the radio and ran marches to celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities. In Bangalore, India, Young Voices spoke on a radio show and held a media event in partnership with a local bank to celebrate their recent successful campaign to make bank machines accessible.

Young Voices address future leaders for peace

The president of Young Voices in Sri Lanka, Ishan Jalill, and the Leonard Cheshire Disability Resource Centre advocacy and campaigns manager supported efforts to create peace and sustainable development in their country by giving a motivational speech to 750 student leaders. They were honoured to speak in the presence of the country’s president and chief guest at a ‘Future Leaders Conference’ organised by Sri Lanka Unites, an organisation dedicated to creating a peaceful and prosperous future in the post-conflict state. The speech inspired participants from all 25 districts in the country, who learned how young people with disabilities could achieve their goals, and that disability is part of human diversity. In recognition of Young Voices’ achievements and contribution, Sri Lanka Unites presented the first copy of their syllabus book to Ishan in front of the conference delegates and the president.

Young Voices campaigner to hone her skills in international student programme

In Sri Lanka, Ms. Nilmini Priyangika, an active campaigner from Young Voices in Colombo, has been selected to participate in an international student programme: Global Challenges of Youth with Disabilities. Held in South Korea and organised by the Korean Society for Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities, the programme trains future young professionals with disabilities to improve their advocacy and campaigning in the field of disability rights. Nilmini was the only Sri Lankan chosen to participate and plans to put what she learns into practice in her Young Voices group.