Blog: Erin takes on NY (and the UN!)

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to get to travel to the United Nations in New York for the tenth annual Conference of States Parties (also known as COSP). The conference brings together advocates, academics and government representatives from around the world to discuss progress on implementing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (or the CRPD).

Every year, there are a wide range of topics discussed that fit within three themes. This year, those were:

  • “Leaving No-One Behind”: Addressing multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination within the disability community
  • Situations of Risk and Humanitarian Emergencies
  • Inclusive Urban Development and Implementation of the New Urban Agenda (Habitat III)

Some of the discussion on these themes took place in one big group, General Assembly style, but parallel to this, there were more than 50 90-minute side sessions on different topics. Unfortunately, it was impossible for me to get to all of them, but I attended sessions about disabled women’s rights, mental health, disaster risk management in the Asia Pacific region, barriers faced by young people with disabilities and ensuring access to justice and equality before the law.

While these sessions are interesting in themselves, a real highlight of participating was getting the opportunity to contribute my own human rights expertise and experience and interacting with very knowledgeable people. For example, I got to ask the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Canadian Minister of Disability Issues, how more disabled people can be encouraged to go into politics, and I got to share my experience of the Christchurch earthquakes and the subsequent rebuild at another session.

Another highlight was getting to read a three-minute statement to the plenary on behalf of the New Zealand Human Rights Commission, who I work for.

In it, I called on governments and civil society organisations to listen to the voices of young disabled people as the generation inheriting the world in its current state. I said that I expect the world will be better tomorrow because of the work we do today.

I think this resonates well with the mission of The Lucy Foundation (TLF). At its core, the Foundation is a group of young people trying to make the world better through sustainable trade alongside many other groups. Founder Robbie was hoping to also attend COSP, but unfortunately had to wait for TLF to be accredited before she could do so.

Now that that has happened, I’m excited about the contribution TLF can make to future COSPs. Discussion of social enterprise, sustainable trade and the involvement of people with disabilities didn’t really feature this year, but is a real emerging area in business and human rights to which TLF and others could add real value.

Bring on COSP 2018!

Erin Gough is a Human Rights Specialist at New Zealand Human Rights Commission in Wellington, New Zealand. She has a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.), Human Rights Laws, from the University of Canterbury and is also on The Lucy Foundation Board of Trustees. 

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In April 2018 the heads of governments from all Commonwealth nations (and the Queen!) will meet in London for the biennial CHOGM summit. The theme of this year's meeting is "Towards a Common Future", with a particular focus on youth and inclusion.

In the lead up to the summit, the hosts of the CHOGM are showcasing Commonwealth stories from around the world, and our very own Robbie Francis was asked to share hers! Check it out:
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Meet Robbie - a human rights advocate & co-founder of The Lucy Foundation, a social enterprise which works to improve #disability inclusiveness through sustainable trade ICYMI: We featured Robbie as one of our amazing role models who is changing lives and making a difference in #ourCommonwealth 🇳🇿 marking #IWD2018 UK in New Zealand University of Otago @commonwealthscholarships @roberta.francis.3551

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A few more awesome snaps from the field...

Memo (TLF Temporary Field Director) writes that for him, inclusion is all about including people with disabilities in as many activities as possible. On this occasion the guys shared their skills with Don Epifanio (organic coffee farmer), and helped him make a mineral treatment for coffee rust (fungus disease). In this way, people with disabilities, as well as the community, can be empowered through the sharing of activities, skills and socialization.

"It's always a good time to work in Paradise!" - Memo Baca Acuario
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Today is International Women’s Day, so we wanted to give a shout out to the amazing wahine on our TLF team! We are so proud that 71% of our team identify as female, and more than half of them proudly identify as disabled! But as much as today is about celebrating mujeres, we also want to remember that globally women and girls with disabilities are one of the most marginalised sectors of humanity:

- 75% of women with disabilities are unemployed
- Women with disabilities who are employed earn less than male counterparts and women without disabilities
- 99% of girls and women with disabilities in the global south are illiterate
- Women and girls with disabilities face disproportionately high rates of gender-based violence, sexual abuse, neglect, maltreatment and exploitation
- Women and girls with disabilities are more likely to experience gender-based violence compared to women and girls without disabilities
- Women with disabilities are regularly denied reproductive healthcare and at times are subjected to forced sterilization

We must be the change!

#iwd2018 #disabledandcute
#strongwomen #disabodyposi
#inclusionrider #thelucyfoundation #plumacoffeeproject

[Image Description: 6 picture grid - Profile pictures of Jessica Pantoja-Sanders, Robbie Francis and Courtney Wilson on the top row. Second row reads 'women', The Lucy Foundation logo and 'wahine'. The bottom row is a profile picture of Erin Gough, the word 'mujeres' and a profile picture of Umi Asaka]
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