Shi Yanxia, 25, and Yao Yue, 18, have never expected that one day they can stand before deputies from all over the world and speak for the disabled young people like themselves.
Two weeks ago, however, they attended the Seventh Session of the UN Ad Hoc Committee on a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities in New York, to address the rights and needs of disabled children.
"We hope the rights of disabled children will be represented in this new international convention," Shi was quoted by Xinhua News Agency as saying today in Hefei City, east China's Anhui Province. Shi is head of Rights into Action for Youth Disabilities, a non-governmental organization supported by Save the Children.
The convention, to be discussed at two UN sessions in January and August this year, is expected to be submitted to the 61st UN General Assembly for approval and become the first international convention worked out by the UN specifically for people with disabilities.
Among the 600 million people with disabilities in the world, there are around 150-200 million disabled children. Statistics from Save the Children show that in developing countries, only 5 percent of the disabled children receive various supports and less than 5 percent have access to school.
"Issues of disabled children are often considered to be the responsibilities of families and thus neglected by the society as a whole," said Shi, who was disabled by infantile paralysis in childhood.
The NGO in which Shi works provides services such as information exchange, occupational training and psychological counseling for children and young people with disabilities.
To help handicapped children to get education, a class is held in Hefei for those children free of charge. Nearly 30 students and their parents are now attending the class to learn how to help the kids recover.
As a senior high school student in Hefei, Yao is a colleague of Shi. He said at the UN conference that for the disabled children, early access to rehabilitation and education will allow more space and opportunities for their development and future career prospect.
With the support of Save the Children, Shi and Yao joined four other young representatives from the UK and Bangladesh to speak on the rights of disabled children.
"Compared with the common kids, disabled children face enormous discrimination. The draft convention mainly focuses on disabled adults and mentions little about children's rights," said Xiao Yu, a project officer with Save the Children Beijing Office.
As a child-focused international organization, Save the Children hopes the draft convention can also address child protection, birth registration, children consultation and participation, access to justice, and support for families to prevent abandonment and neglect, she said.
(Xinhua News Agency February 2, 2006)