In November, I attended the One Young World summit in Colombia, the largest event of its kind that brings together young people from all over the world who are committed to effecting positive change. It was great to be able to participate in this event in my role as UN Young Leader for the SDGs and Youth Ambassador for AbleChildAfrica. The three-day conference was filled with influential speakers I could share ideas with from the public and private sector, as well as young people who have started inspirational projects in their own countries.
One of the highlights for me was the amazing session on disability, opened by 15-year-old Oscar Anderson who told us of his fight to be taken more seriously as a disabled person. ‘Please don’t assume that because we are wonky on the outside we are wonky on the inside as well’, Oscar told the audience. He also talked of his campaign to attend mainstream schools. He made the transition to mainstream school in 2016 and pointed out that there are laws securing the right of every disabled person to do the same. It really emphasised how important our inclusive education projects in countries like Tanzania and Uganda are in educating and securing these rights to access education for all disabled children.
Oscar was also joined on stage by Caroline Cassey. Caroline is the founder of an organisation called Binc, whose aim is to advocate the potential of disabled people in business. At the summit she launched her latest campaign, #valuable, which began by her riding 1,000 kilometres across Colombia on a horse. Caroline’s campaign centres on the 1.3 billion disabled people that are currently outside of formal employment. As a society we do not recognise the talents that disabled people can bring to a business and how disabled people can add value to a company.
Dan Brooke, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer and Board Champion for Diversity at Channel 4, also echoed Caroline in saying that employing disabled people is good for business, and described how Channel 4 has embraced this vision. “I love disabled people and so does our company”, he said. “Not because we are a charity, but because they make our business better”.
I was inspired by the commitment of Caroline and her supporters. I hope other businesses will join this valuable cause and recognise the talents of all disabled people. Just like at the conference, young people from around the globe are craving to make a meaningful contribution to the working world, but in order for disabled youth to do this they need to have equal access to employment. With UN statistics showing that unemployment among disabled people on average tends to be 40-60% higher than non-disabled people, it is so important that in our fight for inclusion we do not underestimate the potential of disabled youth and how they can enrich the workplace, a topic we have discussed together on the AbleChildAfrica Youth Council. This is exactly why I will to continue to advocate for disabled young people’s full and equal rights to work and employment as part of SDG 8.