During CHOGM 2018 and the ‘Commonwealth Include Me 2 Project’, disabled young people involved in the Commonwealth Space through the various networks and roles such as Queen Leaders, Commonwealth Youth Council, Royal Commonwealth Society Fellows approached Include Me TOO to set up a Commonwealth network for and with us, the disabled youths in the Commonwealth.
We felt strongly that a Commonwealth Disability focused Children and Youth Network was needed to ensure they have an independent voice and access to platforms to raise issues and share learning and solutions on issues that matter to them and to improve disability advocacy, inclusion, rights and representation for and with them.
The Commonwealth Children and Youth Disability Network (CCYDN) was launched during the Commonwealth Week in London March 2019 alongside the Global Disability Summit Children and Young People’s Report, at the Houses of Parliament. The event was hosted by Stephen Twigg MP Chair of the International Development Select Committee in partnership with the Commonwealth Secretariat, the International Disability Alliance, The Royal Commonwealth Society and Leonard Cheshire.
Ana Arellano Chairperson of International Disability Alliance provided the keynote speech, followed by key messages shared from the report and the charter presented by Include Me TOO Youth Ambassadors Suleman Arshad, Joesph Migila, Sarah Mwikali, Honey Jones, Paul Ntulila, Devika Malik, Jack Milne and Jonathan Andrews. Regina Mwangi a young person representing Leonard Cheshire also presented on the 2030 and counting as a citizen reporter.
The report shares the contributions that were made by children and young people with disabilities representing *23 countries of which 20 countries are Commonwealth members during the Global Disability Summit which took place in July 2018.
I was proud to host the launch of Include ME TOO’s Global Disability Summit Children and Young People Programme Report in Parliament. It is a fantastic piece of work which the International Development Committee will be considering in detail as part of our inquiry into DFID’s work on disability.
People with disabilities have been left behind for too long. If we are to meet the Global Goals it is crucial that we give voice to and empower young people with disabilities. That is why the work of Include Me TOO is so important in providing a platform for young people with disabilities from around the world to share their aspirations but also the challenges they experience in respect to their inclusion.
The Commonwealth Secretariat, through its Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP) will continue to support the Commonwealth Children & Youth Disability Network as a practical response to the Heads of Government mandate to ‘address the stigma around disability in all its forms and manifestations, ensuring that no one is left behind’. By working with young people with disabilities who are promoting their right to included and to participate in decision making at all levels, we come closer to fulfilling the vision of a society where our young people lead the change they want to see in a fairer, more prosperous and inclusive society for all. The CYP will work with the all the relevant partners and agencies to give voice and space to children & young people with disabilities to lead their own agenda in the Commonwealth. #NowIsTheTime.
I’m very happy to see CCYDN recognised by the Commonwealth Youth Programme as an official Commonwealth Youth Network. I look forward to working with the Commonwealth to ensure that no child or young person with a disability is left behind and to ensure that, across the pressing issues facing children and young people with disabilities, from economic empowerment to inclusive education and tackling stigma and discrimination, barriers are lifted and opportunities are provided for all.