Youth with disabilities in the US and across the world are [facing] the challenges of patronization, tokenization, and not being able to build a knowledge base. Youth are not only tomorrow’s future, but an asset to today, especially youth with disabilities. The International Day of Youth, to me, is a great opportunity to celebrate and the power of youth with disabilities in human rights. Only by including everyone can we truly change the world.

Sunday, August 12th, 2012 was the United Nations International Day of Youth, but it was also the day I left Storrs Connecticut, where I attended the 8th Annual International Leadership Training Program with the UNESCO Chair Office on Human Rights. This conference was incredible, and it reminded me how broad the spectrum of human rights is, but how disability impacts all of them and needs to be in the discussion about how to make the world a better place.

Disability impacts everything from world hunger and poverty to gender based violence. For example, most youth with disabilities in Pakistan, where I do a lot of my disability rights (about 10% of the population according to a 2002 World Bank Report) live in families far below the poverty line and struggle to find food and education. Even for well off families, having a child with a disability adds a significant financial burden, but only because there are no infrastructural supports in that country. However, in spite of the lack of structure in Pakistan, youth and young adults with disabilities are accomplishing incredible things, building youth centers, helping work to pass policy, and making a difference in their communities.
Youth with disabilities in the US and across the world are doing incredible work, but like many young leaders worldwide, we face the challenges of patronization, tokenization, and not being able to build our knowledge base. Youth are not only tomorrow’s future, but a great asset to today, especially youth with disabilities. The International Day of Youth, to me, is a great opportunity to celebrate and include the power of youth with disabilities in human rights. Only by including everyone can we truly change the world.

Written by Hamza Jaka

This article has been written by one of more than a hundred authors that have contributed to youthpolicy.org over the years. Some of them have not yet provided us with their personal byline, so we have the chance instead to say thank you to the good people writing for us! Want to be one of them? Email us at curious@youthpolicy.org.