IFES Hosts Guyana’s Inaugural National Youth With Disabilities Conference
The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) is proud to have partnered with the Guyana Council of Organizations for Persons with Disabilities (GCOPD) to host Guyana’s first-ever National Youth With Disabilities Conference on Dec. 2 and 3. The two-day conference brought together a group of dynamic young leaders from across Guyana as part of the Youth Advocacy Linkages, Leadership in Elections and Society (Youth ALLIES), made possible with the support of the United States Agency for International Development.
The conference served as an opportunity to bring together a diverse group of young leaders with disabilities from across Guyana so that they could reflect on their experiences, discuss key issues, and, importantly, use their collective voices to promote inclusion over the next year. With over 50 youth in attendance, this event saw productive discussions on leadership, civic and political engagement and participation, infrastructure accessibility, media relations, and employment.
The first day was opened by the Prime Minister of Guyana Hon. Mark Phillips and the United States Ambassador to Guyana, Her Excellency Sarah-Ann Lynch. Both expressed their support of the conference and further noted the need to include persons with disabilities in all aspects of society. They made clear that when equal access is afforded for all people, societies derive the benefits of all their citizens’ potential, talent, and productivity.
Also featured at the event were presentations by the former President of the Senate of Barbados, Karryann Ifill, Leader of the Opposition Hon. Aubrey Norton, Member of Parliament Jermaine Figueira, IFES Senior Global Advisor for Inclusion Virginia Atkinson and IFES Sri Lanka/Bangladesh Deputy Director Lasanthi Dakson. All speakers outlined the need for people with disabilities to be meaningfully included in all aspects of life.
Over the two days, the conference also exposed the youth with disabilities to the media, other government officials and political representatives, and several members of the diplomatic community in Guyana. They were given opportunities to network, raise issues, and advocate for themselves. On Dec. 2, the United States Ambassador hosted a reception for the young leaders that brought together the media, government representatives, members of the opposition, civil society actors, electoral stakeholders and the diplomatic corps where these young leaders were able to directly discuss issues that impact youth with disabilities with decision-makers. The Hon. Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and Governance Gail Teixeira shared remarks on the importance of inclusion, education, and de-stigmatization.
From the areas prioritized, participants developed an action plan and declaration focused on three areas: leadership and governance, employment, and accessibility. The declaration speaks to what they expect to see happening in society as they push for future development. These youth will collectively work over the next year to advocate for positive changes towards the declaration, raise awareness of their rights, and motivate others to get involved with the movement.
With the conference completed, IFES Guyana is excited to host events of similar magnitude to ensure equitable opportunities are provided for all persons with disabilities. IFES remains committed to developing the Youth ALLIES program and assisting Guyanese youth as they navigate their society and offer their input towards its progress.
The Youth ALLIES program is made possible by the United States Agency for International Development Eastern and Southern Caribbean (USAID/ESC).