Self-advocate Mia reports on her work at the workshop “Inclusion, why?”

The title of the workshop was “Inclusion, why?”

It took place in Cairo, from October 24 to 26. The meeting was organized by Interact, a Swedish-based organization in Cyprus that works with people with intellectual disabilities. With my friends from LASA we started working with Interact 4 years ago.

The Conference was about:

Inclusion. It brought together a large number of self-advocates, their families, their support and members of different centers or organizations working with people with intellectual disabilities. It was a regional meeting with representatives from Egypt, Tunisia, Sudan and Lebanon. More than three hundred people attended.

My role at the Conference was:

At the conference, I was a key speaker a moderator and a trainer.

The first day of the workshop, there were several presentations in the form of TED talks. This means that the presentations should inspire those who listen to them. I talked about self-advocacy and shared my experience with the self-advocates of Inclusion International and, of course, my experience in New York at the UN. This inspired the self-advocates.

I was also a moderator, along with two other self-advocates, of a session on self-advocacy. The session was very interesting. Young self-advocates have shown how much they want to learn about their rights and we have shared many success stories about how to achieve change in countries where security is a major problem.

The last day was a day for self-advocates and their supports. With my support, we worked on several themes, including education, work, and family. During that day, we talked a lot about the importance of the role of the family in our lives.

Listening to self-advocates talking, I noticed that we have the same concerns. We all want to be independent and above all to be part of our community. Security issues in our region has made us more sensitive to injustice and more determined to work for change.

The other member of Inclusion International was my mother. She talked about the importance of the role of the family. I remembered a very important thing: our family is our best support. That’s why she also needs help, to better help us.

I also had the opportunity to present our group, “Empower Us” and many self-advocates have decided to actively interact with our page on Facebook.

Some of the people I met were:

I saw some of the self-advocates I had worked with before and we exchanged ideas. Some showed a lot of interest in Inclusion International’s work.

Together with my mother, we discussed with the Interact representative the possibility of strengthening self-advocates and their families and the possibility of creating a regional self-advocacy group.

Some of the important messages I heard were:

– I learned that the real question should be “Inclusion: Why not?” instead of “Inclusion: Why?”.

– I also identified some key questions that we should ask ourselves, as self-advocates:

– What is it that you did today which excluded others?

– What have you done today to foster inclusion in your community?

– What have you done to empower people with disabilities?

– I learned that Inclusion is a paradox; we are all alike and we are all different!

– Education is inclusive (when I can go with my sister to school and I get a good education).

– I do not like when the teacher asks me very complicated questions that I cannot understand.

– Since I included people with a disability in my restaurant I have a very good performance and no problems with them, they are very responsible in their work.

Is there any work that Inclusion International or Empower Us can do?

The self-advocates I met are part of a center or specialized school or a church. But a large part of them are very interested in the work of International Inclusion and I think II can help them by inviting them to become members, explaining their role and especially how self-advocates can be part of this great movement. It is very important that they hear this from a representative of II.