Intl Leadership Forum for Young Leaders, 1-9 August 2009

Posted on 22 February 2009. Filed under: Announcements, Capacity Building and Leadership, Children, Education and Training Opportunities, Events and Conferences, HIV/AIDS, Human Rights, Opportunities, Women, youth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

International Leadership Forum Announcement – Call for Applications

[Note to We Can Do readers: This opportunity is not targeted at disability advocates, but young leaders with an interest in disability-related advocacy may wish to read the criteria below and consider whether their interests may usefully intersect.]

The UNESCO Chair & Institute of Comparative Human Rights at the University of Connecticut invites applications for the fifth annual International Leadership Programme: A Global Intergenerational Forum, to be held August 1 – 9, 2009 in Storrs, Connecticut, USA. Applications must be received by February 27, 2009.

The Forum seeks to empower young leaders by involving them in finding solutions to emerging human rights problems, and nurturing individuals to be effective leaders in the field of human rights.

To this end, the Forum will:

• Introduce participants to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
• Build a network of solidarity among human rights leaders
• Expand the knowledge relevant to human rights practice
• Provide tools and a platform for open debates
• Provide programmes, activities and processes necessary for human rights leadership
• Promote the sharing of experiences and understanding
• Showcase speakers on such topics as: health and human rights, education, the environment, the plight of child soldiers, the use of media, fundraising, conflict resolution and transformation; litigation and advocacy

The UNESCO Chair will provide all conference participants with dormitory housing, meals, ground transportation in Connecticut, resource materials and a certificate of participation.

Young people between the ages of 18-30, with community service experience, and with demonstrated ability to work on solutions to human rights problems, should apply. Relevant issues include, but are not limited to, human trafficking, the plight of children, refugees, hunger, HIV/AIDs, gender discrimination, racism, classism, the environment and peace education.

Conference will be held in English only. Fluency in English is required. Applicants will be selected based on the strength of their application essay, demonstrated commitment to human rights (practical/hands-on experience), potential impact on the individual and their potential contribution to the Forum, regional and gender representation.

Programme details and application materials can be accessed by linking to or

Nana Amos
Program Manager
University of Connecticut
UNESCO Chair & Institute of Comparative Human Rights
UConn-ANC Partnership
233 Glenbrook Road, Unit 4124
Storrs, CT 06269-4124
860.486.3054 Phone
860.486.2545 Fax
Scholarship and Job are posted at

I received this announcement via the AsiaPacificDisability listserver. If you have inquiries about this opportunity or wish to apply for it, then please follow the relevant web links provided above and follow the instructions at the official web site. We Can Do is NOT able to assist you with your questions about this event–please contact the people organizing the forum directly. Thank you.

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Including Everybody: Website on Disability and MDGs Launched

Posted on 26 September 2008. Filed under: Announcements, Children, Cross-Disability, Education, Health, HIV/AIDS, Inclusion, Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), News, Opinion, Policy & Legislation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
End poverty and hunger. Put all children in school. Empower women. Stop children from dying. Keep pregnant and birthing mothers healthy. Fight AIDS, malaria, and other disease. Create a sustainable environment. And promote global cooperation. These are the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)–an important set of goals agreed upon by key leaders and heads of state from around the world in September 2000. No, they don’t mention people with disabilities at all–and I will come back to this point in a few paragraphs. Or you can ignore me and go straight to the new website on disability and the MDGs. But in theory, the MDGs are meant to help everyone.

Each goal has a set of specific targets to be achieved, most with the deadline set for 2015. For example, the poverty goal includes a target to cut the number of people living on less than $1 a day in half by 2015. And the goal on child mortality includes a target to cut the child mortality rate by two-thirds among children below age 5. Many country governments, multi-lateral development banks, international development organizations, and donors have invested billions of dollars into projects meant to help more countries and regions meet the Millennium Development Goals.

What has the results been? Mixed. Some of the goals, such as the targets for reducing poverty and hunger, or in putting all children in primary school, have been met–and exceeded in many countries particularly in eastern Asia. Progress in southern Asia has helped also. But many countries in sub-Saharan Africa lag far behind in meeting many of the MDGs.

You can read more about the overall progress–or lack of it–at Or if you only want to look up the progress in the country where you live, work, or care about the most, go to

People with Disabilities and the MDGs
But what about people with disabilities? Unfortunately, they have been so invisible that most programs and governments don’t even count them. That means it’s hard to find reliable numbers that measure whether people with disabilities are included–or left behind–in the haphazard progress that has been made toward the MDGs. But, we can make some educated guesses.

For example, what limited numbers do exist estimate that possibly as many as 98% of children with disabilities in some developing countries never go to school. Personally, I doubt this number is universally true. For one thing, there is a great deal of variation from country to country in how proactive they are about finding creative ways to include children with disabilities in school. Read Making Schools Inclusive: How Change Can Happen: Save the Children’s Experience (PDF format, 4.14 Mb) for examples of progress.

Then, there is probably some variation depending on the disability. A child with a relatively mild walking-related disability, for example, might have only minor difficulty reaching school if it is not too far. Or a child with undiagnosed and unaccommodated dyslexia might sometimes make it through a few years of school, and even learn a little, before they quit in frustration.

But if that 98% figure is anywhere close to the mark, then it is safe to say that the MDG target on universal primary education has failed disabled children miserably. We do know that they are very disproportionately left behind: the UK Department of International Development (DFID) says that one-third of the 72 million children who are out of school have disabilities, even though people with disabilities are only an estimated 10 percent of the world population in general. And this only covers the education-related target of the MDGs; the new website on disability and the MDGs points out gaps in all the rest.

Disability Inclusion is Everyone’s Business
So what’s the answer to this problem? A thorough response to this question would fill a book. One thing, however, is clear: It will not be resolved by any one government or organization working in isolation. And it certainly will not happen if resource-strapped disability-oriented organizations are left to tackle the problem alone. It will take many governments, agencies, and organizations working together–including those that do not normally specialize in disability issues. In short, everybody who is doing anything to address the MDGs needs to identify better ways to include people with disabilities in the work they’re already doing.

This begins by increasing everyone’s awareness of the complex relationship between disability and the MDGs. By “everyone” I mean both disability advocates (so they can help advocate the issue) and also mainstream international development professionals (so they can find ways to ensure their programs are not inadvertently leaving disabled people behind). Either way, you can start learning at the new website on disability and the Millennium Development Goals, Include Everybody, at:

What Do I Think of “Include Everybody”?
When you consider that this website is brand new, I think it makes an excellent start at covering the issues. In the long run, as with any new endeavor, I see room for them to expand. For example, their page on achieving universal primary school education or the page on promoting gender equality and empowering women could usefully link to publications such as Education for All: a gender and disability perspective (PDF format, 151 Kb). Or their page on combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases could link to the on-line global survey on disability and HIV/AIDS.

They also could consider eventually developing a one to two page, attractive looking, factsheet on disability and the MDGs that advocates could print out and disseminate when educating others about the topic. They also could consider developing a similarly attractive, one-page factsheet for each of the MDGs individually. The latter could be useful, for example, for passing along to a specialist who only wants to read the information on child mortality without also having to wade through a lot of detail on environmental sustainability. Or vice versa.

But, for now, this web site is a good place to start learning.

The Include Everybody website has been publicized in several different locations by now, including the GPDD mailing list, the Intl-Dev mailing list, Joan Durocher’s mailing list, and others.

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Free Rice for the Hungry, Free Vocabulary Fun for You

Posted on 1 January 2008. Filed under: Poverty, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

URL for this page:
The Fun Part
You can give free rice to hungry people, play a free game, and improve your vocabulary, all in the same key stroke at a new web site called FreeRice.


If you’re one of my regular readers at We Can Do: my apologies. I know you usually come here to find new resources, information, news, or announcements related to poverty and human rights among disabled people in developing countries. Usually I do try to stay very tightly focused on issues of disability and international development at this blog. But this post IS still about poverty, even though it’s not specific to disabled people. And, more importantly, it IS still a holiday for most readers. So what the heck. I’ll indulge, this once. And I hope you’ll indulge with me.

(For those of you who have been paying attention to the last few posts at this blog: the holiday season in general is one reason why I have been posting fewer new resources and devoting more time in the past week to long-term improvements to this web site. For example, see the new pages on accessibility; announcements for conferences, events, call for papers, and training opportunities; navigating We Can Do to help new readers quickly find the resources they need at this blog site; and news. I WILL start posting more fresh content soon, so do stay tuned. And consider subscribing to We Can Do so you don’t miss anything.)

If you’ve been reading the right blogs lately, then the image near the top of this page might look familiar. For those of you who are not able to view this image, I’ll describe it: this is a horizontal “banner.” At the left-hand side is a brown wooden bowl with a few grains of white rice in it. (Hm. Wouldn’t brown rice be healthier?) At the right-hand side, the text says: “Free Rice” on the first line in large letters and “Play and Help!” on the second line in medium sized letters. The background on the left side is a medium/dark green; on the right side, it’s a lighter shade of green with what I think is supposed to be a blurry image of rice plants. FreeRice has a number of other similar-looking banners available. [Sorry–I’m describing the image here instead of using alt tags because I don’t have a clue how to use alt tags. If you do, please take a few moments to advise me in the comments area below and I’ll fix it.]

So how does FreeRice work? Simple. Go to You will see a vocabulary word at the top of the screen and four possible definitions or synonyms. Choose the one you think is the closest match. If you guess correctly, FreeRice will give 20 grains of rice to hungry people. Then, if you like, you can continue playing. If you’re sighted and able to view images with your computer equipment, then you’ll also see a picture of a bowl of rice filling up each time free rice is given.

This game is tailored to the vocabulary skill of each player who participates. If you answer three vocabulary questions in a row correctly then it gives you a more challenging word. If you continue to guess correctly, the words become harder and harder. If you miss one, it gives you an easier word. If you keep missing, the words become easier and easier. Until you start to answer correctly again. There are 50 vocabulary levels. So nearly all people should be able to find a level that is comfortable for them whether you’re learning English as a second language or whether you’re a vocabulary geek.

You might wonder: if this game is free, then where does the money come from to pay for all the rice that’s going to hungry people? It comes from advertisers. There is an advertisement banner at the bottom of the screen. The ad in this banner changes every time you guess a new word. The more you play, the more ads you see. And the advertisers are obviously hoping that more people playing FreeRice will translate into more sales for their products, or more donations to their charitable causes.

You can guess one word or guess a million. Play for just one day or play every day the rest of your life. Or anything in between. It’s all up to you. The more you play, the more rice you give–and, in theory, the more vocabulary you learn. I say “in theory” because I’ve read some criticism somewhere (sorry, don’t remember where) that says vocabulary games like this one may not be necessarily the best way to learn vocabulary. But I’m sure it can’t hurt. And if you’re serious about it, you could use the game to develop a vocabulary study list and find other ways to rehearse the words you see. (Hint: double check your understanding with a dictionary. And use it in a sentence.)

Accessibility for Blind People
I’m not able to evaluate whether the FreeRice site is accessible to people who use screen readers. If this is you, I would be curious to learn about your experience there. Since the game itself is text-based, I’m guessing there should not be any major problems with it. Though I’m also guessing that the ads won’t be very accessible, unless a given advertiser thinks to use the alt tag for their images. And you won’t see that rice bowl filling up.

The Serious Part
This blog post deviates from the usual We Can Do post in two ways. One, as noted above, it’s not about disability. (Though disabled people do certainly starve also. In fact, given that disabled people are more likely to experience poverty, it’s probably safe to assume that people with disabilities are also more likely to go hungry.) Two, my normal focus in this blog is on finding long-term solutions to long-standing problems. Thus, things like how to better include disabled people in large-scale, long-term poverty reduction strategies. Or how to ensure that disabled children in developing countries are not left behind when their governments try to bring more children into the classroom.

In this view: one criticism I do have for the FreeRice site is that it offers a temporary fix for something that is, for far too many people, a chronic problem. In the long run, it’s not enough to keep shipping free rice to hungry people. That feeds them today, but it doesn’t help them feed themselves tomorrow or next year. That means we also need to invest in more long-term strategies for fighting poverty. That means more schools so that the 77 million children out of school can enter the classroom for the first time. And we need more textbooks and better quality teachers–and possibly more computers–so that children already in the classroom will learn something while they’re there. Poor people who have entrepreneurial skills need small business loans so they can lift themselves out of poverty with their own hard work. And we need to give more aid dollars directly to organizations based in developing countries who are running great projects to fight HIV/AIDS, deliver clean drinking water, or abolish poverty.

But this is not a slam against FreeRice, per se. In fact, I sometimes play this game myself. Yes, more chronic forms of hunger do need a long-term fix. But hunger can also be a short-term emergency, such as during a time of war (though wars, unfortunately, can sometimes be long-term) or in the first few months after a natural disaster. And short-term emergencies, unfortunately, will always happen. Therefore, we will always, to some extent, actually need short-term fixes like FreeRice.

I just feel compelled to point out the need for long-term solutions because I worry that some people in industrialized countries are too quick to donate time (or money) to easy, “feel-good” causes that don’t actually solve problems. If you really want to help, then don’t just help. Instead, make it possible for people to help themselves.

But, there’s nothing wrong with also having a little fun at

In that spirit: Here’s wishing you a Happy New Year. May the year 2008 be delightful and fruitful for you. And for those of you who work to ensure that disabled people are not left out when governments and organizations fight poverty and speak out for human rights: I hope all your endeavors this year will be successful ones.

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