3rd December: Celebration of People with Diverse Abilities

3rd December: Celebration of People with Diverse Abilities

Today marks the worldwide celebration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. This day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly resolution 47/3 in 1992, to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life (1). Persons with Disabilities as defined in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)  are those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments that, in interaction with various barriers, may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others (2). According to the World Health Organization, over one billion people about 15% of the worlds population have some form of disability. Their optimal level of functioning and development is dependent on the dynamic interaction between their health conditions and social factors such as attitudes, institutions, and laws (3).

The theme guiding this years celebration is Transformation towards a sustainable and resilient society for all. The underlying principle of this theme is to leave no one behind and empowers people with disabilities to be active contributors to society. This is based on transformative changes enumerated in the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development Goals. These goals are meant to address all areas of development and equality, and include disability components in several of them aiming to strengthen the resilience of people with disability by providing full access to justice, health care services, infrastructure, inclusive education, accessible communities and sustainable economic growth through employment (4).

As we reflect on these goals, a question that comes to mind is, what is the contribution of our nation so far in achieving an inclusive and accessible society? As Canada’s first Minister dedicated to Persons with Disabilities, the Honorable Carla Qualtrough commented this year Our country is a leader on the world stage, with a very robust human rights system. Weve made great strides in fostering an inclusive society for people with disabilities. But there is still work to be done (5). Moreover, this year, April 3rd and 4th marked a historical moment for Canadians. For the first time, the UN CRPD committee reviewed Canadas implementation of the CRPD-an important tool for ensuring that people with disabilities have equal access to economic, cultural and social opportunities. This opportunity allowed Canada to underline the countrys progress, as well as discuss areas for improvement in fostering an inclusive and accessible society.

Now, moving forward, as we think of attaining the highest levels of an inclusive society- one that defends the rights and dignity of all citizens and empowers every person with disabilities to participate fully in all aspects of social, political, economic and cultural life- what can we do as responsible citizens? Well, as mentioned in the CRPD, individual citizens, the government, persons with disabilities and their representative organisations, academic institutions and the private sector need to work together to achieve the sustainable development goals but more importantly, the need of the hour is for all of us and not only the people in the disability community, to view issues through a disability lens, rather than observing specific issues as only issues for the people with disabilities. For example, the way we protect the rights of victims disabled by violence can improve how we take care of all citizens who are vulnerable to violence.  Furthermore, improving services to persons with disabilities, can improve institutional capacity for all citizens, both now and into the future. Thus, as responsible citizens, I ask that we all take initiatives- not only today, but a 365 day challenge- to listen to fellow citizens with disabilities, and work with them in advancing solutions towards an inclusive society. Ultimately, diversity is the strength of our nation and by increasing the participation of people with all abilities, we will create a stronger Canada.

  1. https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/international-day-of-persons-with-disabilities-3-december/idpd2017.html (accessed 11/27/17)
  2. http://www.un.org/disabilities/documents/convention/convoptprot-e.pdf (accessed 11/27/17)
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/icd/icfoverview_finalforwho10sept.pdf (accessed 11/28/17)
  4. https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/about-us/sustainable-development-goals-sdgs-and-disability.html (accessed 11/28/17)
  5. http://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/minister-qualtrough-on-canadas-appearance-before-the-un-committee-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities-617862713.html (accessed 11/29/17)
  6. image citation: http://www.un.org/en/events/disabilitiesday/(accessed 11/29/17)

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Post written by blog writter Michelle Chakraborti

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Michelle is a a 4th year PhD Candidate in the Experimental Medicine graduate program at the University of British Columbia. She is passionate about policy issues around child and family health. Michelle’s dissertation is grounded on the World Health Organization’s framework on functioning and disability (ICF-CY) that highlights family as the most salient environmental factor affecting child development. For her dissertation, Michelle evaluate’s BC-based physical activity programs for children with neurodevelopmental disorders as an avenue to support and strengthen families’ health. Michelle is also a volunteer with the Let’s Talk Science program at UBC, a national program geared towards engaging children in science. As a part of the UNA Vancouver content writing team, she writes about issues/policies on health related to the mandate of the World Health Organization. If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why? France! I’ve always wanted to visit France ever since I learned the language as a child. I admire the culture, architecture and love the food as well as I would be able to test my language skills!

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October 10th is Mental Health Day 

Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 9.15.54 PMDid you know that mental health is included in the UN Sustainable Development Goals?

“Promoting mental health and well-being, and the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, are integral parts of the Sustainable Development Agenda to transform our world by 2030 adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 25 September 2015.” Learn more about the World Health Organization 

One in five Canadians experience a mental health condition. Bmy the age of 40, 1 in 2 Canadians have or previously had a mental health condition.1 Mental health, defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), is a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” 2 The mental health of a person fluctuates and at any point of time is affected by multiple stressors that may be social, psychological, and biological in nature. Mental health refers to striking a balance in all aspects of life: social, physical, spiritual, economic and mental. Reaching a balance is a learning process, it is not a one size fits all approach, instead it is unique for every individual. Our challenge is staying mentally healthy by maintaining the balance, which is easier said than done. While physical health is easy to measure and discussed openly, mental health is under the surface and often not discussed.. Every year on October 10, the WHO celebrates World Mental Health Day. This day is an opportunity for us to reflect on our own mental health and think about ways we can contribute towards supporting people in our community who are living with mental illnesses, as well as call attention to a timely mental health issue. The theme for this year’s issue is “Mental Health in the Workplace” 3

During our lives, we spend a significant amount of time at our workplace. Our experience at our there is one of the aspects that affects our mental well-being. Unemployment is a recognized risk factor while employment or returning to work is a protective factor against mental health problems. Conversely, employment in a negative working environment such as a workplace where individuals face bullying or psychosocial harassment adversely affect the employee’s’ mental health, which may be accountable for depression and anxiety, harmful use of substances or alcohol, absenteeism, lost productivity and a high turnover rate. In fact, mental health is seldomly considered as a key aspect of an employee’s’ health, yet, the WHO highlights depression as the leading cause of disability worldwide. A study by WHO researchers estimated that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year in lost productivity. Many of these illnesses can be treated, but access to treatment is often difficult, and stigma may prevent people from obtaining services even when they are available.4

As a healthy workplace benefits both workers and employers, therefore, the question arises, how do we create a healthy workplace? The answer is easier said than done, that is, the onus lies on both the workplace management team and its employees’ in being proactive and leading by example. However, it seems that this is seldom the case. Consequently, in July this year, an utterly empathetic response from a chief executive to his employee who was taking a break to cope with mental health issues took social media by storm. “It prompted thousands of retweets, garnered dozens of headlines when an employee who had written that she suffers from anxiety and depression, wrote an email to her colleagues saying she’d be out for a couple of days to “focus on my mental health.” Her chief executive replied by thanking her, saying every time she sends an email like that “I use it as a reminder of the importance of using sick days for mental health” and “you are an example to us all, and help us cut through the stigma.” 5 This sets a strong example of the meaning of a healthy workplace, illustrating the willingness of the employee to be open about her mental health as well as the employer positively acknowledging his employee’s needs and reminding his colleagues to do the same. This teaches us that we need to be open and acknowledge each other’s mental health needs in order to foster mental well-being in the workplace, which will help to decrease negative attitudes and discrimination and empower individuals to promote mental health and dignity for all.

The writer:
Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 9.07.16 PMMichelle Chakraborti is a a 4th year PhD Candidate in the Experimental Medicine graduate program at the University of British Columbia. She is passionate about policy issues around child and family health. My dissertation is grounded on the World Health Organization’s framework on functioning and disability (ICF-CY) that highlights family as the most salient environmental factor affecting child development. For her dissertation, Michelle evaluate’s BC-based physical activity programs for children with neurodevelopmental disorders as an avenue to support and strengthen families’ health. Michelle is also a volunteer with the Let’s Talk Science program at UBC, a national program geared towards engaging children in science. As a part of the UNA Vancouver content writing team, she writes about issues/policies on health related to the mandate of the World Health Organization. If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why? France! I’ve always wanted to visit France ever since I learned the language as a child. I admire the culture, architecture and love the food as well as I would be able to test my language skills!

Sources

(1) Smetanin et al. (2011). The life and economic impact of major mental illnesses in Canada: 2011-2041. Prepared for the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Toronto: RiskAnalytica.

(2) http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/mental_health/en/ (accessed October 3, 2017)

(3) http://www.who.int/mental_health/world-mental-health-day/2017/en/

(4) Report by the World Mental Health Federation on World Mental Health Day 2017 (https://www.wfmh.global/wmh-day/wmhd-theme-2017/; accessed October 5, 2017)

(5) https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/on-leadership/wp/2017/07/14/the-mental-health-email-shared-round-the-world/?utm_term=.4917f75de3db (accessed October 5, 2017)

Image citation:

https://workplaceleeds.wordpress.com/2014/10/08/top-tips-for-celebrating-world-mental-health-day-at-your-workplace/; (accessed October 5, 2017)

Disability Justice: The Call to Action

By: Naomi Shi (bio below), UNA blog writer

 

Disability, the theme of the upcoming Rosemary Brown Conference this year, is experienced by more than 19% of the world population. In Canada alone, more than 5.3 million people are affected by some form disability. Discrimination towards persons with disabilities is ingrained in our culture and is still immensely relevant to the international community. Ableism conceptualizes the belief that people with disabilities are inferior, and that having a disability is a defect rather than a dimension of difference. The interpretation of difference as a defect is the root of ableist acts, as it fosters the culture of discrimination in society.

However, ableism is more blatantly and commonly integrated into our culture, albeit the great anti-discrimination progress that is repeatedly depicted. Many nowadays fail to even recognize ableism as legitimate and predominant discrimination. Accessibility, or the lack thereof, is one of the most obvious forms of discrimination people with disabilities face. Disabled people are still to access places and services only open to their able-bodied counterparts. How often have you seen wheelchair ramps at the back of a building? Is that something you even notice? Ableist terms have also become naturalized in the English language, with many people carelessly using pejoratives (and often without knowing the harmful connotation behind these words) in casual conversations, harmfully promoting the prejudicial treatment of people with disabilities in daily life.

Although ableism is a significant and universal detriment, it is consistently marginalized and disregarded as a pressing and relevant social justice concern. Framed as lacking, undesirable, and laced with pity and stigma, the wrongful perception of people who have disabilities and the blind integration of ableist acts in society contributes to the widespread assumption that disability does not constitute a serious category of oppression. While indignation with issues such as racism and sexism is heavily circulated and publicized by social justice activists, it contrasts their chronic disregard and indifference towards ableism. This normalizes the marginalization of disability, and it further undervalues the weight of ableism when compared to other forms of discrimination.

The winner of the Rosemary Brown Award for Women this year has helped change how society views people with mental disabilities. Dr Dana Brynelsen is a stalwart advocate for the rights of children with learning disorders. Pioneering the Infant Development Programs of BC since their founding from 1975 to 2009, Brynelsen has dedicated her efforts to promote inclusion at a time when isolation of children with developmental disabilities was common. The program she fronted has ensured over 100,000 families had the support they needed to help these children realize their full potential. As the recipient of numerous awards for her work in the areas of early childhood intervention, Dr. Brynelsen has been recognized for her unyielding commitment to the well-being of infants and families across BC. She received the Order of British Columbia – the province’s most prestigious honour – in 2014.

The call for disability justice is urgent and pressing. Dr. Dana Brynelsen’s persistent work in the domain of early childhood intervention exhibits how the fostering of a culture based on inclusion, rather than segregation, has positively altered society’s perception of disability. Through her achievements in her field, she shows how disability justice has the power to not only change the way how people perceive their culture and its regards to diversity and difference but also to fundamentally change the way social change is enacted. It is vital that disability, and ableism, be considered equally amongst other issues of social justice.

The fourth annual Rosemary Brown Conference will be held on September 23rd at Asia Pacific Hall at the Morris J Wosk Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University and will include discussions on gender, sexuality, and disability.

Naomi Shi

Naomi Shi
Volunteer Blog Writer, UNA Vancouver
Naomi is an avid and eager student who is driven by curiosity. She is a student newspaper editor, a youth parliamentarian, and is currently approaching her senior year at Little Flower Academy. She strives to learn more about past events that shaped the world around her and understand its correlation to current events that continue to dominate and influence the world today. Having been an active participant in Model United Nations for three years – through attempting to rectify simulated international conflicts, she has become a more conscientious student. Model UN has increased her knowledge in world matter and allowed her to better comprehend different mindsets and perspectives through attempting to rectify international conflicts. In 2016, Naomi volunteered with Canada Global Culture and Education Association along with 70 other British Columbians as Canadian ambassadors, leading a cultural exchange camp in Guangzhou, China. She was able to teach and supervise workshops on English, Canadian history, and social justice for five weeks to underprivileged youth in China. She is excited to complete her final year of secondary education, as she hopes to pursue her interest in sociology and post-colonialism in the future.
If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?
I would love to go to Israel, as it is an epicentre of history and religion. Visiting Jerusalem and its bountiful landmarks of cultural, historical, and religious significance is something that I wish to do within my lifetime.

 

Working Abroad for UN-Habitat in the Vibrant City of Nairobi

Author: Stephanie Ortiz

Doug

I had the pleasure of interviewing Doug Lau over the phone as I overlooked Vancouver’s smoky skyline following the BC Day long weekend. We chatted about his recent experience in Nairobi working as a Junior Professional Consultant (JPC) through the United Nations Association of Canada. Doug was hired as a JPC by UN-Habitat, an agency that promotes sustainable urban and human development as well as adequate shelter for all. Doug expressed that the opportunities felt endless in this lively East African city as he made his way to work every day. Something that struck Doug about Nairobi was the city’s vibrancy and the optimism that people had about the future. We discussed what it was like working at the UN office in Nairobi, his responsibilities as a JPC with UN-Habitat, and the challenges of working abroad.

During his six-month contract term, Doug discovered that the UN office in Nairobi -which has roughly 5,000 employees from all over the world- was “quite an exciting place to work.” Doug’s office was located in a zero emissions building on campus and the UN Nairobi campus was recounted as being a forward thinking place, with an open-space concept, and indoor gardens –features that align with the UN-habitat mandate. The overall campus was illustrated as having preserved gardens, lined with elegant trees, and manicured grass and described as an incredible and lively place.”You could feel that people around you were very capable and motivated,” Doug recalled.

As a JPC, Doug carried two major responsibilities. The first being monitoring and evaluating programs. He developed systems to track performance, assessed the progress of those involved, gave feedback, and then provided and guided the necessary adaptations. His second responsibility comprised of reporting essential information to stakeholders and donors. “One of the coolest parts of working with the UN is working with diverse partners.” This experience gave Doug the opportunity to collaborate with other different units and external agencies based in Nairobi. This allowed him to work with other local governments, delegations from foreign diplomatic missions, community groups, women’s groups, youth groups, and more.

However, relocating and working somewhere unfamiliar often brings along a string of challenges. Doug confessed, “it’s always difficult to adjust to working in a new city. Not only do you need to learn the new office, practices, and procedures,” you inevitably have to combine it with figuring out the transportation system, where to get groceries, and so on. Doug added, “but it becomes very rewarding as the months go on.”

When asked whether he would recommend this type of work experience to others, he responded, “Absolutely. This has been an incredibly formative experience, not just in my professional career but for my personal development. It’s an incredible opportunity and privilege to work in this field. Development work hasn’t been around long enough but it’s a great field to work in and very rewarding. It’s Important to understand how competitive this field is and how important the work you’re doing is. You’re competing from a pool of candidates from all corners of the world and it should be approached as such. It’s tough, something that needs to be taken seriously. Work hard and don’t be discouraged if you don’t get in right away. It can take time. And just remember that not all citizens of all countries have the same opportunities.”

If you’re considering a career in development, the  2017 Hiring Trends Report: The Jobseeker’s Guide to Development Recruiting is well worth a read. If you’d like to participate in the UNA Canada’s International Development and Diplomacy Internship Program, you can visit the Facebook page for more information. The deadline to apply is September 5th, 2017.

 

DOXA Event Recap

The United Nations Association in Canada (Vancouver Branch) was pleased to sponsor a film at the 2017 DOXA Documentary Film Festival.

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Photo of UNA Vancouver taken by Tara Flynn Development Manager, Doxa Documentary Film Festival

The screening of “Complicit” was held at VIFF’s VanCity Theatre on Saturday, May 6, 2017 at 2:00 p.m. The screening was well-attended, and the audience was clearly engaged in the issues presented in the film.

One of the highlights of the 2017 edition of the DOXA Festival is the Spotlight on Troublemakers, which celebrates courageous dissent in difficult circumstances. Our sponsored film provides an incredible first-hand look at the frontlines of China’s labour movement. It shines a light on the global electronic manufacturing industry in China, where 90% of the world’s consumer electronics are produced.

The featured activists are committed to taking on some of the world’s largest corporations, and they speak openly about abysmal working conditions. Young people work in buildings with poor ventilation, and handle chemicals which have been banned in industrialized Western countries for more than 40 years. Corruption and obstruction run deep, as workers struggle to deal with diagnosis and treatment of occupational diseases, many leading to serious illness or death

Complicit” was also included in the festival’s Justice Forum, so it was followed by a thought-provoking question and answer session led by two guest speakers. Cathy Walker is the former National Health and Safety Director of the CAW (Canadian Auto Workers Union) now UNIFOR. She has worked on China-related projects for the Canadian Labour Congress, the Vancouver & District Labour Council, and the BC Federation of Labour. Fiona Koza is a Business and Human Rights Campaigner at Amnesty International Canada. She works to hold companies accountable for human rights abuses and to ensure access to remedies for people who have been harmed.

The afternoon concluded with informal discussions with audience members who visited the UNAC information table in the lobby of the theatre.

We extend our thanks to our two guest speakers, and to all DOXA staff and volunteers for making this year’s festival such a success. We look forward to working together again next year!