At a glance: Viet Nam

Launch of report celebrates children's abilities

UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on the launch of The State of the World's Children report in Da Nang, Viet Nam.  Watch in RealPlayer

 

By Chris Niles

Like all children, those with disabilities have many abilities, but are often excluded from society by discrimination and lack of support, leaving them among the most invisible and vulnerable children in the world.

Today, UNICEF launched its flagship report The State of the World’s Children 2013: Children with Disabilities. The report brings global attention to the urgent needs of a largely invisible population.

DA NANG, Viet Nam and NEW YORK, United States of America, 30 May 2013 – UNICEF’s The State of the World’s Children report focuses this year on the potential of children with disabilities and the contributions they can make to society.

The report was launched today in Da Nang, Viet Nam, where UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake joined Vietnamese Vice State President Nguyen Thi Doan and AusAid Director General Peter Baxter to encourage the world to see the child before the disability.

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© UNICEF Viet Nam/2013/Macksey
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake with Ho Thi Lan, 19, who attends a vocational training session on tailoring at a respite daycare centre supported by UNICEF in Hoa Vang district, Da Nang.

In conjunction with the launch in Viet Nam, UNICEF hosted a panel discussion in New York to examine the ways discrimination can be compounded by issues such as gender, age and race.

The event heard a moving story of one woman’s life-long struggle to be judged for her talents and not her impairment.

Ipul Powaseu was born in Papua New Guinea in the early 1960s. She contracted polio at the age of 1.

“My mother and father didn’t want me to go to school,” she said. “My mother was very frightened of me going out of her sight because of what other people were going to say about me.”

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF/2013/Berger
At the New York event, chairperson of the Papua New Guinea Assembly of Disabled Persons Ipul Powaseu speaks of her life-long struggle to be judged for her talents and not her impairment.

Ms. Powaseu, who is now chairperson of the Papua New Guinea Assembly of Disabled Persons, said she has faced discrimination her entire life.

Her family, thinking it might be useful if she could read letters that came to the house, eventually allowed her to go to school to Grade 6. She quickly excelled and, despite stigmatization from classmates, found allies in her teachers.

“The teachers wanted to see me go on. My teachers were my champions, and they managed to help me,” she said.

In high school, her family allowed her to continue to grade ten, reasoning that she might work in a store to support them.

Ms. Powaseu continued to excel academically and went on to university and a post-graduate degree.

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© UNICEF/2013/Berger
The New York event also featured President of Fundación Paso a Paso Olga Montúfar Contreras, who works with indigenous people with disabilities in Mexico.

A successful scientific career did not end her battle to be accepted. When her daughter was born, her parents wanted to take the child from her, thinking she would be unable to care for her. Her daughter faced discrimination from her peers because of her mother’s condition.

Ms. Powaseu’s husband left her because of her disability, yet she went on to adopt and educate three of her brothers’ children.

“There’s a lot we can do, but it requires that we work together. The barriers that we face are still there,” she said.

UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Martin Mogwanja hosted the event, which featured President of Fundación Paso a Paso Olga Montúfar Contreras, who works with indigenous people with disabilities.

Emma Pearce, who leads the Women’s Refugee Commission’s disability projects, outlined the ways in which people with disabilities can be discriminated against in emergencies, and UNICEF Programme Assistant Gopal Mitra spoke about ways to help adolescents with disabilities live full and productive lives.


 

 

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