On the Day of Persons with Disabilities, the Verkhovna Rada Was Reminded of the Rights of Children by the UNICEF Initiative
At the initiative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Janis McDavid, motivational speaker from Germany and UNICEF Ambassador for Inclusion, addressed the Verkhovna Rada. Janis’ visit to Ukraine is timed to coincide with the International Day of Persons with Disabilities to draw public attention to the topic of inclusion and deinstitutionalization.
According to the State Statistics Service, as of 2019, there were 163,886 children with disabilities under 18 in Ukraine. Children with disabilities remain one of the most marginalized and isolated groups in Ukraine and face many barriers on a daily basis in access to opportunities, namely education.
Other problems include stigma and discrimination, lack of child-centered and individualised learning methodologies, inflexible curricula, lack of assistive devices, inaccessible teaching materials, physical inaccessibility of schools, etc. The lack of these components means that families prefer specialized boarding schools and other institutions. About half of the children in Ukrainian institutions have a disability or developmental delay.
Janis McDavid stressed the importance of developing an inclusive environment:
“Why do we focus more on what divides us than on what unites us? I dream of a world where what distinguishes us does not divide us. In this world, differences no longer matter. A society without barriers is a society without borders.”
Together with Janis McDavid, Lina Deshwar, a Ukrainian civic activist promoting the rights of children with disabilities, spoke at the plenary hall of the Parliament.
“Children who find themselves in difficult life circumstances, or are born with developmental disabilities or are already under institutional care, should not be just statistics. They should not be invisible children in Ukraine. Every child is a CHILD. So, I urge everyone to work and act for the benefit of children. Because everyone has the right to childhood, and childhood has no disability,” said Lina.
According to a new UNICEF report, the number of children with disabilities in the world is estimated at almost 240 million. Children with disabilities are at a disadvantage compared to children without disabilities as measured by most child welfare indicators.
Compared to children without disabilities, children with disabilities:
- are 24 percent less likely to receive support and proper care needed for early development;
- are 42 percent less likely to acquire basic reading and numeracy skills;
- have a 25 percent higher probability of delayed weight gain and a 34 percent higher probability of growth retardation;
- are 53 percent more likely to have symptoms of an acute respiratory infection;
- are 49 percent more likely to never attend school;
- are 47 percent more likely not to complete primary school, 33 percent more likely not to complete basic secondary education, and 27 percent more likely not to complete secondary education;
- are 51 percent more likely to feel unhappy;
- are 41 percent more likely to feel discriminated against;
- are 32 percent more likely to suffer severe corporal punishment.
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.