Young Voices make themselves heard in Brussels

Young Voices campaigners at the European Development Days event - Young Voices campaigners and other delegates are seated behind a table, while one person speaks - some audience members are visible. The EU development days banner - eudevdays.eu - is behind the speakers. Young Voices campaigners spoke to a packed room of delegates at the European Development Days in Brussels on 26th November. The Young Voices, from the Philippines, Zambia and Kenya, were hosting a side event on ‘The Power of Young Voices – an innovative approach to inclusive civic engagement focusing on young people with disabilities’. The European Development Days is an annual event that brings together thousands of development stakeholders, practitioners and advocates in informal sessions to exchange best practice, network, and come up with creative solutions to key issues.

The Young Voices campaigners shared the challenges they have experienced as young people with disabilities, and the campaigns they have participated in to bring about change for disabled people in their countries. Delegates debated how development actors could engage better with young people.

Meeting delegates - including Young Voices campaigners - sitting round the tableTwo days later, the campaigners took part in a roundtable at the European Parliament, hosted by Richard Howitt MEP. Together with representatives from EU institutions and civil society they discussed how to harness the power of young voices to promote human rights and include disability in the post-2015 development framework.

View highlights, photos and quotes from the sessions on our Tumblr site.

Award-winning Young Voices campaigner returns to New York

Ashwini and UNSGYoung Voices campaigner Ashwini Angadi from India returns to the UN in New York this week to call on world leaders to make sure that disability is included in the post-2015 development agenda that will replace the Millennium Development Goals. In July, Ashwini was in New York to celebrate Malala Day and receive a ‘Youth Courage Award for Education’ from Gordon Brown, the UN Special Envoy for Education. Ashwini is co-chairing a new Youth Education Crisis Committee set up by Gordon Brown. The Committee will lead the call of young people around the world for a robust and urgent response to the education crisis, starting with the 1 million Syrian refugee children.

A new committee for people with disabilities in Tanzania

Young Voices in Tanzania met with the Minister of Health and Social Welfare to advocate for a national committee for people with disabilities. The Minister listened to their views and has announced to parliament that a committee for people with disabilities will be established by the Ministry before the end of the year.

Including people with disabilities in the South Sudan Constitution

South Sudan is currently in the process of developing a new Constitution. Young Voices are campaigning hard to make sure that people with disabilities are included in the Constitution, and are involved in the constitutional review process. They had a very positive meeting with the Secretary General of the National Constitutional Review Commission. He has asked them to help mobilise people with disabilities so that they are involved in the process. He was very clear that disabled people would not be excluded from the Constitution.

Young Voices campaigners in Zimbabwe influence the new constitution

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 member takes part in consultation on the new constitution

A Young Voices member from South Sudan, William British, took part in the consultative forum on the review of the national constitution process in Eastern Equatoria State. William’s participation was particularly important as there were no other people with disabilities taking part in this consultation. The views gathered at the consultation will be used to inform the new constitution so it is vital that disability issues are raised to ensure the new constitution is inclusive of people with disabilities.

William actively participated in the discussions, and raised the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities sit on the constitutional review committee. He also requested that the new constitution stipulates a minimum percentage for the representation of people with disabilities in the South Sudan National and State Legislative Assemblies. The event was attended by a representative of South Sudan Judiciary, a representative of the State Assembly, community and religious leaders, civil society organisations and human rights activists.

The South Sudan Young Voices group plans to follow up with the organisers of the forum to ensure that William’s requests are implemented.

New county governor in Kajiado is keen to work with Young Voices

In March 2013 the first county governor of Kajiado county, Kenya, was sworn in at a ceremony in Kajiado showground witnessed by thousands of members of the local community. The new Governor has agreed to meet with Young Voices campaigners and give them the opportunity to discuss their issues and concerns, and help him to implement what they want as people with disabilities in Kajiado.

The voices of young disabled people were prominent in the celebrations – Young Voices members performed songs, poems and gave speeches on issues for people with disabilities. Young Voices members in Kajiado have done a great deal of awareness raising about communication barriers within the county; as a result a sign language interpreter was present at the event.

Elections and Boundaries Commission promises to make sure disabled people can vote in the national elections without challenges

Young Voices members in Swaziland recently met with the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC), along with the Director of Cheshire Homes Swaziland. They discussed the importance of people with disabilities being able to take part in this year’s national elections. They highlighted the challenges that people with disabilities face when voting, and set out a number of improvements that they would like to see. These included a booklet to guide people with disabilities through the election process, allowing people with disabilities not to queue when voting and preparing tactile ballot papers for visually impaired people.

The Chairperson of the EBC said that the concerns they had raised were very legitimate, and that he would be taking steps to make sure that people with disabilities vote without challenges. He said: “We are also at looking at having people with disabilities assist during the elections. We believe that this is a start of a relationship that will go further than this year’s elections.” The group will be monitoring the elections to see whether people with disabilities experience any difficulties with voting.

You can read more about the meeting in an article in the Swazi Observer.