Remarks as prepared
Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch
Inaugural Youth with Disabilities Conference
December 2, 2022
Honorable Prime Minister Mark Phillips
Honorable Ministers of the government
Honorable Leader of the Opposition, Aubrey Norton
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Ganesh Singh and other executives of the Guyana Council of Organizations for People with Disabilities
Meredith Applegate, International Foundation for Electoral Systems Country Director
Members of the media
I’m extremely pleased at this opportunity to address you at the first ever national conference for youth with disabilities in Guyana.
In 2002, Guyana’s census estimated that over 48,000 citizens were living with some form of disability, accounting for 6.4 % of the country’s population. With population growth since 2002, as well as difficulties that prevent accurate capture of this group, such as stigma, lack of self-reporting and the varying definitions of disability, the true number is likely to be higher. Most persons with disabilities face barriers which prevent their full and equal participation in society. In 2002, 22 % of persons with disabilities who had attained working age, were currently in the labor force. Data showed that 86% of those who sought employment were hired while 14% remained unemployed. Educational attainment rates were much lower, showing 7.4 % of people with disabilities as having attended school either full time or part time
This conference, which recognizes that there is a gap in opportunities for people with disabilities, is a step in the right direction to ensure people with disabilities in Guyana are afforded their natural rights and rights as Guyanese citizens.
Further, it explores how to provide access and ensure an equitable civil system for ALL youth to actively participate in the betterment of the societies that affect them.
When people with disabilities are afforded equal access to exercise their rights and realize their aspirations, ALL of society benefits from their potential, talent, and productivity. Access for people with disabilities improves access for all and most importantly, benefits all.
Congratulations to the Guyana Council of Organizations for Persons with Disabilities for organizing this conference, and for their continued advocacy for people with disabilities.
I’m proud that USAID’s Youth Advocacy, Leadership, Linkages in Elections and Society program, or the Youth ALLIES program, has been working steadfastly with the G-C-O-P-D to support the rights of youth with disabilities, and has seen fit to actively support this inaugural national conference for youth with disabilities.
The Youth ALLIES program works to increase the participation of youth in elections, in governance and society. To effectively support this work, the program actively works to address inclusion of ALL youth, including youth with disabilities, in political and civic life. The Youth ALLIES program is founded on the guiding principle that young people – including youth with disabilities – are not just leaders of tomorrow, they are leaders of today.
Youth can, and do contribute actively and positively to their communities. To achieve youth participation, the Youth ALLIES program works to build young people’s understanding of their rights and responsibilities, works to build their leadership skills, encourages their participation in civic and political processes, and supports opportunities for them to participate in political and civic activities.
This conference is one such activity and reflects a slogan of the global disability rights movement: “Nothing about us without us”.
Over the next two days, I expect that you’ll discuss pertinent issues relating to accessibility- including access to education, access to employment, access to buildings, access to the electoral system, and actions that are necessary to allow more meaningful participation of persons with disabilities in public and civic life. I know that this room is full of passionate, dedicated young people and recommendations stemming from this conference will be impactful for all Guyana.
The U.S. Government remains steadfast in its support of measures that allow each of you to enjoy equal access, live an independent life driven by self-determination, and contribute in equal terms to the development of your communities.
By working through the USAID Youth ALLIES program and many other U.S. Government initiatives, we will continue to support the G-C-O-P-D and other organizations that represent persons with disabilities. We stand ready to support the government of Guyana, and work in partnership to implement the principles, and achieve the obligations, set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
My best wishes for a successful conference.