Lawrence, Kenya

Lawrence in front of the Kenyan flagLawrence is 23 years old. He has a hearing impairment and is currently pursuing a Diploma in Social Work and Welfare at Kenya Institute of Social Work and Community Development. He is also employed part time by the Deaf Ability Initiative in Kenya, which enables Deaf young people to realise their full potential.

He has represented young people with disabilities at major conferences and forums both locally and nationally, and is an active campaigner for the rights of young people with disabilities through Leonard Cheshire Disability Young Voices. He is particularly proud of his contributions towards the promotion of sign language while studying at the Kenya Institute of Social Work and Community Development. When he started his course, none of his fellow students or tutors understood Kenyan sign language. He wrote to the Director of the Institution urging him to introduce a basic sign language course. As a result of his advocacy, a sign language course has been established, and more Deaf people are now being admitted to the Institution to pursue their studies.

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Turkson, Zimbabwe

Turkson is 25 years old. He has a physical disability and is currently studying for his Diploma in Business Management. He joined Leonard Cheshire Disability Young Voices in 2010 to campaign for the rights of persons with disabilities, and is the National Facilitator for the Young Voices group in Harare. He is also member of the African Youth with Disabilities Networking Groups (YAYWDN) which advocates globally for disability rights.

In 2012, he took part in a UN Conference on Disability and Development in Bangkok. He also participated in the International Aids Conference in Washington in July 2012, where he contributed to the development of the ‘Washington Declaration PLUS’ which demanded the full inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in HIV and AIDS programmes. One of his most rewarding achievements is, along with his fellow Young Voices campaigners, influencing the Zimbabwean Government to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in May 2013.

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Ashura, Kenya

Ashura holding a folder standing in front of a Leonard Cheshire Disability logoAshura is 21 years old and has a hearing impairment. She recently attained a Diploma in Law from Inoorero University Nairobi, Kenya. An ambitious lawyer in the making, she is a passionate advocate for the rights of people with hearing impairments and other disabilities in Kenya through Leonard Cheshire Young Voices.

She has taken part in many campaigning activities, including leading a group of Young Voices campaigners to visit the Communication Commission of Kenya and advocate for the need to have sign language interpretation services during news segments on television. She also ensured that during the Kenya at 50 years celebrations there was a professional interpreter in the stadium and in local television stations.

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Young Voices campaigners at the World Conference on Youth

WCY logo - a grey circle with 7 different coloured triangular-like shapes coming off it7 Young Voices campaigners are participating in the 2014 World Conference on Youth which takes place this week in Colombo, Sri Lanka. 1500 delegates are coming together to discuss mainstreaming young people in the post-2015 development agenda.

The conference aims to produce a unique joint outcome document between states and young people called the “Colombo Action Plan”. The Young Voices campaigners will be doing all they can to make sure that young people with disabilities are recognised in the action plan.

The Young Voices campaigners attending are: Ashura and Lawrence from Kenya, Turkson and Courage from Zimbabwe, David from Zambia, and Janitha and Umesh from Sri Lanka.

Equal Right: Equal Opportunity – Global Action Week 2014

This week, people will be taking action across the world to campaign for the right to education for children with disabilities as part of the Global Campaign for Education’s Global Action Week on education and disability. Find out how you can get involved.

Young Voices campaigners will be joining in with the campaign, including taking part in a rally in Kenya and a radio show in Zambia. Watch this space for blogs, photos and updates on this week’s activities.

Young Voices = Global Ambassadors

Six Young Voices campaigners have been selected as Global Youth Ambassadors for education by A World At School. A World At School is creating a global network of young ambassadors who campaign in their schools, communities and countries for action to get every child into school and learning.

Huge congratulations to Leroy from Guyana, Ashwini from India, Sarah from Kenya, Munyaradzi from Zimbabwe, Yaaseen from Mauritius and Ishan from Sri Lanka. They have been chosen to be ambassadors because of their interest, passion and dedication to fighting for the right to education.

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Young Voices campaigners from Zimbabwe on the road!

20140219_339LeonardCheshireYoung Voices campaigners from Zimbabwe went on a speaking tour of six secondary schools in March and February, reaching an amazing total of over 12,000 school children.

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.

Education for girls with disabilities

Here’s Young Voices campaigner Ashwini Angadi from India speaking about the importance of education for girls with disabilities. Ashwini was speaking at the 2nd Annual Global Education & Skills Forum in Dubai. More than 850 world leaders, business leaders, government ministers, and education experts attended the forum, including President Bill Clinton and Tony Blair.

Called to make the world a better world for all: Young Voices global campaigners

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

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.

Editors: Tongayi Dana, Lidwina Isidore, Thuso Sepepe, Nicole Mulavu, and Limakatso Patricia