Harry is a founding member of AbleChildAfrica’s Youth Council. Since joining in 2016, he has been a driving force in the Council’s advocacy work and continues to advise and support AbleChildAfrica through the Youth Council from Malawi, where he returned earlier this year.
In early December 2017, the Commonwealth Youth Council in conjunction with the government of Antigua & Barbuda organised the first ever disability rights campaign in the Caribbean region. AbleChildAfrica was invited to participate in the conference, and I was honoured to be invited to represent AbleChildAfrica’s Youth Council along with one of AbleChildAfrica’s Programmes Officers, Alice Ford.
The I Am Able conference came at a time when the country had signed and ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) the previous year (2016). I was very impressed reading from the conference invitation letter, a couple of months prior to my visit to Antigua, that the country had drafted the Disabilities and Equal Opportunities Bill, with a core legislative purpose of protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. The Bill is Antigua & Barbuda’s way of domesticating the CRPD.
The I Am Able conference brought together a diverse pool of disability activists, advocates, government officials, representatives of different non-profits working on disability issues, young people with and without disabilities from places including the Caribbean, the UK, USA, and some parts of Africa. It was an event that showcased the energy, commitment and passion different people have for disability rights.
The few days I spent in Antigua & Barbuda attending the conference reinforced in me the belief that there is so much passion and commitment towards removing barriers that prevent persons with disabilities from fully and actively participating in all areas of society including education, health, decision-making processes and politics.
Every day of the I Am Able conference presented itself with great opportunities for learning and experience sharing. Apart from having speakers present on disability rights from the global and Antigua & Barbuda perspective, we had the opportunity of undergoing capacity building workshops on public speaking, financing and resource mobilisation, media and social media, and data collection.
The knowledge shared during the capacity building sessions was very beneficial, and I heard a number of young people with disabilities from Antigua & Barbuda talking about how they planned to use such knowledge in developing their networks, advocacy, and organisations. I myself took part in two sessions, one of which was a workshop I facilitated on the ‘Onion Inclusion Framework’ as an example of best practices for inclusion from the perspective of the Commonwealth youth.
I found this conference to be a great opportunity for networking, awareness raising and direct engagement between the youth, especially those with disabilities and decision makers. I met a lot of energetic young people who are doing incredibly well in reshaping the disability narrative in their respective societies. One such young person was Hassan Khan from the UK. Hassan shared a touching story about how he woke up one morning during his childhood days and was unable to see.
I learnt from Hassan’s story how much of a difference one’s resilience and determination to following their passion regardless of their current situation or societal barriers. Despite losing his sight, Hassan defied all odds to follow his passion for cricket; a sport he has passionately enjoyed playing to-date.
From the many stories that young people with disabilities and other participants shared during the conference, it was evident that we all have the ability to be what we want to be and do what we are passionate about. More often than not, social attitudes and the environment within which we find ourselves do prevent us from becoming who and what we are able of becoming, especially when we have different abilities.
On behalf of AbleChildAfrica, Alice and Harry would like to express their sincere gratitude to the Antigua & Barbuda High Commission, particularly High Commissioner Karen-Mae Hill, for inviting us to contribute at the conference. We look forward to further building our relationship so that we can continue to share knowledge and learnings to break down the barriers to inclusion that children and young people with disabilities face globally.