During UN week, a voice for children with disabilities is heard in corridors of power
Americas, September 27 2013
NEW YORK: She calls herself Crystal, because of her brittle bones, but Nguyen Phuong Anh is fast becoming known for her sparkling voice and for shattering stereotypes about disabilities.
‘Crystal’, who has osteogenesis imperfecta – wowed the New York crowd at the United Nations high-level meeting on disability with her singing. But, her main purpose has been to make her voice for children with disabilities heard in the corridors of power. She joined up with Stevie Wonder, a United Nations Messenger of Peace focusing on Persons with Disabilities, to push for inclusion and for conventions – such as the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and the Convention on the Rights of the Child – to be ‘signed, sealed and delivered’ by all States.
“I am really going to push everyone to join our world of inclusion,” Mr. Wonder told Crystal at a special side meeting at the United Nations this week. “The more people who are doing things that make a difference and are part of this world of inclusion, the smaller the world gets of people who are not committed – and ultimately, we will end up with a world of inclusion.”
As the deadline to the Millennium Development Goals rolls on, there is a big push to get children with disabilities included in the global development agenda. Mr. Wonder, who has been an icon since he was a child, and Crystal, the teenage singing sensation, hugged, exchanged telephone numbers and promised to keep in touch.
“No one should be excluded because they’re blind, or because of any disability or because of their status or their colour,” said Mr. Wonder. “We cannot allow our differences to let our fear put dreams to sleep. This young lady – Crystal – did not. ”
“I look forward to be able to express myself in a way that can actually make people pay attention to what’s really important about making people with disabilities have an inclusive life and access to education,” said Crystal. “I think coming here is the perfect chance to really represent children with disabilities as an integral part of the global development agenda.”
The high-level meeting this week emphasized inclusion as being for the greater good of all of society, putting talents and skills first – on ability before disability. Crystal, who shot to fame after appearing on Viet Nam’s Got Talent, has come to embody that spirit with her singing.
“People like Ludwig von Beethoven, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Vincent Van Gogh, Leonardo da Vinci. When we fail to see the gifts that every person has ― when we fail to hear their demands for justice…for an equal chance to unleash their talents, energies and ideas…we not only rob people of their own ambitions; we rob our societies of all they can contribute,” said Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF. “As Crystal’s new friend Stevie Wonder once said, ‘Just because a man lacks the use of his eyes doesn’t mean he lacks vision.’”
The vision and pitch for people with disabilities is on a firm footing for the future, after this week’s historic meeting. Action off the stage will be the real encore for Crystal and other young people like her.
Among its key recommendations to the high-level meeting, UNICEF has urged countries that have not yet done so to ratify and implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Currently, 134 parties (including the European Union) have ratified the CRPD. In The State of the World’s Children 2013 report, launched in Viet Namin May with Crystal, UNICEF highlighted that, while children with disabilities face widespread poverty, discrimination, violence and exclusion, including from education, all society benefits when it focuses on what children with disabilities can do, rather than what they cannot do.