As we reimagine a better future for every child, we must not leave children with disabilities behind
Statement by UNICEF Representative Patrizia DiGiovanni on International Day of Persons with Disabilities
Skopje, 3 December 2021 – “As we reimagine a better future for every child, on this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we have to ask ourselves what more can society do to reimagine more sustained efforts to ensure all children - regardless of their abilities - have equal grounds to achieve their full potential.
All children have enormous potential. Focusing on a child’s disability without first seeing the child, constrains that potential. Like any child, children with disabilities carry the promise of happy, meaningful lives, of vital community participation, and of making contributions to build inclusive and sustainable societies.
A society cannot be equitable unless all children are included, and children with disabilities cannot be included unless the environment around them changes to support their participation.
North Macedonia has made enormous efforts to introduce inclusive practices in health, education and social protection. The introduction of a new assessment model based on the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF); the new law on primary education that foresees fully introducing inclusive education and transforming special schools into resources centres; ending the placement of children in large scale residential institutions; introducing screening for early detection of development delays; and expanding community based services to provide families with support; are some major milestones to ensure children with disabilities can take up their rightful place in society.
This International Day of Persons with Disabilities we call on all to sustain these cross-sectoral efforts so that children with disabilities are not left behind. These reforms must become a reality in every community in the country so that all children with disabilities receive the support they need to go to school with their peers and to get the health and social services they need.
A child that is assessed based on what s/he can do will have more self-confidence, more chances for inclusion in pre-school, school and everyday life. Knowing child abilities also helps childcare professionals design individualised plans to support inclusion – from access to assistive technology to learning plans. Also, inclusion of children with disability helps all children in the classroom to learn more about empathy, fairness, collaboration and social solidarity and these values in turn drive up grades and school outcomes.
Ultimately, seeing children from the perspective of what they can do when we remove barriers helps create a society where disability is seen as a part of life and of human diversity and where all children are included and participate.”
Notes to the editor:
- On the 8 December, Jane Velkovski from North Macedonia will be delivering a Youth TED Talk at the inaugural Global Forum for Children and Youth (#ChildYouthForum) - a three day virtual global forum bringing children and young people together with leaders from the United Nations, government, business, philanthropy and civil society, as well as authors, artists and influencers on 7–9 December 2021. Over three days, they will together brainstorm and accelerate proven and new solutions, inspire commitments from participants to create change, and mobilize resources to advance child rights to meet the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The forum will be live streamed on #ChildYouthForum webpage and Jane Velkovski’s Youth Ted Talk will be released on the global TED.com on Friday, 10 December 2021.
- UNICEF has made available UN disability-inclusive language guidelines in Macedonian. On 3 December teachers in primary schools around the country have been invited to hold interactive lessons with children to engage them in shifting the language used. The materials include a lesson plan, presentation and disability quiz which were developed in consultation with the Bureau for the Development of Education. Editors are encouraged to share the material with journalists and other media colleagues to ensure media use language that support advancing the rights of people with disabilities.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.mk.