Henry Smith MP: Leave no one behind on International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Henry Smith MP joined the UK-based Leonard Cheshire Disability charity in Parliament last week to mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (3rd December).

Henry said;

“I was delighted to join Leonard Cheshire Disability to help mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The important research Leonard Cheshire has conducted into girls’ education shows the additional barriers girls with disability face in accessing an education.

“I recently visited Tanzania as part of my work on the House of Commons International Development Committee, to see how UK aid is having an effect on the ground and to continue to hold the Department for International Development to account with regard to its work.

“Last Wednesday (29th November) I questioned the new International Development Secretary in the House of Commons over how she is working to ensure disability support in education in developing countries.”

On Thursday (30th November) the International Development Secretary, Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP, announced that the UK will bring together global leaders and technology companies next year to tackle the barriers that prevent people living with disabilities in the world’s poorest countries from reaching their full potential. It was confirmed that Britain will co-host the Global Disability Summit in 2018.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development pledges to “leave no one behind” yet a recent report by Leonard Cheshire and the United Nations Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI) revealed that only 10 per cent of children with disabilities in developing countries go to school.

The global literacy rate for adults with disabilities is as low as 3 per cent, and 1 per cent for women with disabilities, according to a 1998 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) study. Less than 42 per cent of women with disabilities have completed primary school education.

Girls with disabilities are less likely to enrol in education, and have lower rates of attendance and completion, making disability one of the most prominent factors in educational marginalisation.

For girls with disabilities, the situation is even more challenging; due to gender norms and practices common in many developing countries, they face triple discrimination, on the basis of their poverty, disability and gender.

Ola Abu Alghaib, International Deputy Director of Leonard Cheshire Disability, added;

“Our ultimate goal is a society in which every person is equally valued. Today is an important reminder that whilst progress has been made, there is still so much more to do to ensure that disabled people are not left behind, particularly in ensuring access to inclusive education.”

Henry Smith, Member of Parliament for Crawley, asked the Secretary of State for International Development, Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP;

“I recently visited some schools in Africa where, in classrooms of more than 100 pupils, those with special educational needs, right at the back, had very little chance of accessing education. How will my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State—I congratulate her on her new position—prioritise disability support in education in developing countries?”

The Secretary of State for International Development, Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP, responded;

“I thank my hon. Friend for raising this subject, which is very close to my heart. He will not have long to wait—perhaps it will be a matter of hours—for my first announcement on how the DFID budget will support disability.”

Pictures: Henry Smith MP with Ola Abu Alghaib, International Deputy Director of Leonard Cheshire Disability; and Henry Smith MP questioning the International Development Secretary on 29th November 2017.