OURS: A Commonwealth Network BY, and FOR Children and Youth with Disability

Written by Unice Mumo

I reiterate the words of Judge Geary: “Inclusion is a right not a privilege for a select few”.

Before I talk about this incredibly inclusive Network that was pre- launched during Commonwealth Week in London in March, and re launched internationally at the United Nations New York during the Conference of States Parties 12th session on CRDP in June this year, I decided to conduct interviews with some children and youth with disabilities. Firstly, they told me, there is nothing for us without us. Secondly, they told me they want the microphones, not just invitations to the table. This, got me thinking, how many times do we just invite persons with disabilities for the sake of inviting, yet never go beyond that to uphold inclusion? Does it ever occur to us that there is a difference between integration and inclusion?

A week ago, I met Joseph (not his real name). Joseph is a youth with a disability from Kenya. Joseph tells me ‘I wish I could be treated just the same way like other people. I have lost opportunities because of my disability. I am seen as a liability. I cannot access schools because they are inaccessible and cannot cater for my needs, and that alone has led to my further marginalization. Who would want to employ someone like me who has no education background?’ He continues. ‘You know, after this marginalization, I decided to enroll to a college near me, despite its inaccessibility. But woe unto me, even after accessing that education, I have not secured a job, a decent job. Where will I end up to?’


Now this is what led to my writing of this article, and hopefully by the end of it, you will join or partner with this Network, because hope is there.

Discrimination and stigma across the globe are quite alarming when it comes to children and youth with disabilities. Disability itself is a vulnerability. Our disabilities have been used to deny us our rights, our needs, our dignity, and our protection. What can we do together to avert this? Is there a way out where children and youth with disability from across the globe can connect, share their stories, opportunities, and as one voice face the duty bearers for accountability?

Youth with disabilities discussing issues affecting them during Conference of State Parties United Nations Headquarters (Newyork)

In response to these questions, Include Me TOO a rights based inclusive driven charity organization who have included the voices of children and youth with disabilities for over a decade supported the participation providing opportunities of children and youth with disability views and voices to be heard in London during the Global Disability Summit organized in partnership by the Government of Kenya and the Government of United Kingdom. Youth with disabilities approached Include Me TOO to support and develop a platform where These children and youth with disabilities can come together share the things that matter to them, a network that can ensure we are listened too, amplify our voices and act on our collective messages.

So, who are these voices? The Commonwealth Children and Youth with Disability Network is founded by Include Me TOO and a Network that is children and youth with disability led. NGO’s working with children and youth with disabilities can join the network and siblings can also get involved. The network seeks to strengthen their rights, inclusion, participation and representation. It aims to increase access and opportunities for children and young people with disabilities, to discuss and share their narratives, highlight their achievements, realize their potential and provide access to mentors, resources and an inclusive tomorrow.

The Network is supporting to increase the awareness and implementation of CRDP and the This Network is few months old yet it already has a Global Disability Children and Young People’s Charter that was developed as a result of children and young people with disability sharing what matters to them during the Global Disability Summit. The Network will be taking part in in place, has recruited children and youth with disability from across the globe, secured opportunities in the Global arena, and they are planning for the first ever Global Disability Youth Summit that will be happening in 2020 in the UK which is being led in partnership between Include Me TOO and World Merit .

This is a network that is tapping into the potential of children and youth with disabilities. A Network that has brought different young people together who are ready to fearlessly air issues and advocate for the rights of persons living with disability.

Unice Mumo and other members of CCYDN

So, what next? How can you get involved?

We strongly encourage parents and caregivers of children and youth with disability to reach out to us, and member their children.

We encourage youth with disabilities to member and join this movement of change it.

We encourage everyone to partner with us to see our vision actualized.

We call anyone interested to express interest to mentor these children and youth.

We call upon the duty bearers to respect and fulfill our rights, and to sign up the Global Disability Children and Young People’s Charter.

We know we can do this, but we need everyone’s support. We need you; you need us.

Support our vision….

Prepared by Unice Mumo, (GYJA), Member, CCYDN

Unice Mumo

Mariam Ileyemi

Author: Mariam Ileyemi

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