2030 and Counting: empowering young disabled people

It’s been more than a year since Leonard Cheshire launched its global initiative ‘2030 and Counting’ and significant progress has been made during that time.

The project works to ensure that young people with disabilities are not left behind when it comes to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), giving young people with disabilities a seat at the table and empowering them to become a generation of advocates.

The year has been particularly busy for the project’s lead citizen reporters from Zambia, Kenya and the Philippines. Their volunteer roles have helped recruit more than 60 reporters onto the project, leading to 332 ‘unique reports’ being generated about young people with disabilities, by youth with disabilities.

The data collection phase was an integral part of the project, with the unique reports providing essential insight into the challenges and barriers faced by young disabled people. This project, in particular, focused on three of the SDGs:

  • good health and wellbeing;
  • quality education
  • decent work.

The collection of such data is vital in painting an accurate picture of the harsh realities faced by young people with disabilities globally. But it also equips them with as much knowledge as possible to help influence policymakers and affect change.

Regina Mwangi - Lead Citizen Reporter for Kenya

The project not only saw the amount and breadth of qualitative data increase, but also the confidence of the citizen reporters as they became powerful agents for change. In fact, at the start of the project, only 27% of the reporters strongly agreed that they would feel confident in sharing their experiences with influential people in their communities.

However, the project’s youth-led leadership training and strong links with Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs), combined with the hard work, determination and commitment of the reporters, resulted in 86% of the citizen reporters strongly agreeing with the same statement at the end of the programme.

Over the course of the year, reporters directly engaged with 30 policymakers globally, utilising the grassroots knowledge they had gained by reporting ‘on the ground’ to have honest, informed and insightful discussions.

Following a busy year of activities, this March the lead citizen reporters visited the UK to take part in a number of events with their peers. The week of activity included a ‘2030 and Counting’ feedback session. They also had a session with young disabled people from India and Norway. It gave the group a chance to share good practice and discuss opportunities and ideas for continuing to raise the voice of marginalised youth.  

The pinnacle of their visit was a Parliamentary reception in the House of Commons, which was sponsored by Stephen Twigg, MP, chair of the International Development Select Committee, who opened the event.

Ian Banda,Lead Citizen Reporter for Zambia

During the afternoon the reporters shared their key findings from the project with a packed room of attendees, including Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, Dan Carden MP and Sir David Amess MP, the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Philippines. Also in attendance was Virendra Sharma, who is a member of the International Development Committee.

The lead citizen reporters presented on some of the priorities for change they would like to see focused on in their own countries to ensure no one is left behind. This included:

  • improved access to healthcare services;
  • disability awareness training for employers;
  • employees and training for all teachers in inclusive education.

When asked what the highlight of their trip was, lead citizen reporters Maria Njeri, Ian Banda, Dianne Mallari and Regina Mwangi were all in agreement that the opportunity to speak to influential policymakers in parliament was a great way to reflect on their findings from the last year. It has spurred them on even more to continue their essential work in changing mentalities towards young people with disabilities.

Maria Njeri, Lead Citizen Reporter for Kenya with Stephen Twigg MP at House of Commons

Dianne, lead citizen youth reporter from the Philippines, commented that broadly there seemed to be; “the same challenges and same issues” faced by youth with disabilities in various countries. Summarising ‘2030 and Counting’ she added: “The aim of this project is almost the same in every country, we are one, we are united in this project.”

To find out more about 2030 and Counting visit our website.

By Leonard Cheshire

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