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Group of Commonwealth Youth with Disabilities meeting at Marlborough House

Commonwealth pushes for stronger partnerships to strengthen rights of young people with disabilities

12 August 2019

The Commonwealth Children and Youth Disability Network (CCYDN) has convened its first strategic meeting in London, following its official launch during Commonwealth Week earlier this year.

The network aims to increase access to various platforms designed to help young disabled people influence positive change on issues which matter to them.

CCYDN has been spearheaded by the disability rights charity Include Me TOO who for more than a decade have been advocating for the rights and inclusion and facilitating participation of children and young people with disabilities. Include Me TOO delivered the week-long programme bringing together CCYDN representatives and committee members This included:

  • Ensuring the inclusion, participation and representation of children and youth with disabilities leading up to and during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2020 in Rwanda and other national and international events. 
  • Increasing reach and engagement of CCYDN by working in collaboration with Commonwealth youth networks and other relevant Commonwealth networks
  • CCYDN campaigns and increasing membership of children and young people with disabilities to join CCYDN and NGOs working with children and young people with disabilities as well as youth DPOs that are disabilities-led.
  • Ensuring CCYDN is representative and particularly supports those with complex needs and in need of additional support to ensure their voices are not left behind.
  • Promoting and increasing support for the Global Disability Children and Young People’s Charter developed during the Global Disability Summit hosted by DFID in London in 2018.

Commonwealth head of social policy development, Layne Robinson, highlighted the significance of the Commonwealth Youth Programme’s newest youth network.

“This network developed by Include Me TOO is a practical response to the Commonwealth Heads of Government mandate to ‘address the stigma around disability in all its forms and manifestations, ensuring that no one is left behind’.

“By working with young people with disabilities who are promoting their right to be included and to participate in decision-making at all levels, we come closer to fulfilling the vision of a society where our young people lead the change they want to see in a fairer, more prosperous and inclusive society for all.

“The Commonwealth Youth Programme will work with all relevant partners and agencies to give voice and space to children and young people with disabilities to lead their own agenda in the Commonwealth. #NowIsTheTime.”

Network co-chair Jonathan Andrews said: “"I'm very happy to see CCYDN recognised by the Commonwealth Youth Programme as an official Commonwealth Youth Network. I look forward to working with the Commonwealth to ensure that no child or young person with a disability is left behind and to ensure that, across the pressing issues facing children and young people with disabilities, from economic empowerment to inclusive education and tackling stigma and discrimination, barriers are lifted and opportunities are provided for all.

Parmi Dheensa, CCYDN co- chair and Include Me TOO Executive Director, said: “This year during the Commonwealth 70th Anniversary CCYDN has been launched aiming to ensure a connected Commonwealth which includes the voices and representation of children and young people with disabilities throughout the Commonwealth. We look forward to working with the Commonwealth Youth Programme and are delighted to have CCYDN officially recognised amongst the Commonwealth Youth Networks, particularly   as this is the first network which includes children and not only youth. This new model is essential to ensure children and youth with disabilities are connected within the Commonwealth for an inclusive future”.

The week’s activities culminated with a roundtable discussion between the network’s committee members, internal teams from the Commonwealth and external partners working with children and young people with disabilities.

During the roundtable, committee members shared discussions from their side event held during the 12th session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at the United Nations in June this year.

Attendees also discussed areas of partnership and agreed to take forward collaborative efforts to strengthen the voices, rights, inclusion and participation of children and young people with disabilities across the Commonwealth.

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