New Delhi: Special Olympics Bharat conducted the Annual Youth leadership Summit bringing together Unified Pairs (youth with and without intellectual disability) from across 17 States of India at the YMCA, New Delhi, from November 9-12, 2022.
The role of the youth in promoting the UN Social Development Goals was deliberated at several levels, through stakeholders from diverse backgrounds, including students with and without intellectual disabilities, school administrative officials, Special Olympics International and State leaders, coaches, special educators, sports and fitness experts, media persons and family members of the SO Bharat athletes.
The Summit drew attention to the vision of inclusion and transformation in attitudes and behaviour through the youth, making schools and communities places of unity and acceptance. Panel Discussions had representatives from UNICEF, WWF and various educational institutions who shared their experiences, challenges, and opinions about making educational institutions spaces to nurture inclusion by bringing together youth with and without Intellectual Disabilities at varied levels. The Summit was anchored by Unified Pairs, who also steered the Panel discussions; many of the youth with intellectual disabilities were medallists from the Special Olympics World Games held earlier.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr Mallika Nadda, Chairperson, Special Olympics Bharat said: “The Youth are an integral part of the society and have the ability to drive change. In conjunction with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, it is the time to reach out to them and facilitate their effective engagement and leadership in making this world a better place. To enable the youth and to leverage the unique power that they hold, support is required from different stakeholders of society. This Summit has brought together guests from diverse backgrounds outlining each one’s ability and relevance to drive the Inclusion Revolution. It provided a platform for youth from all over India to highlight and share their experiences of the work being done through the Special Olympics Unified Champion School programming. We have our endeavours strongly steered towards educational institutions to build communities of acceptance, bringing Inclusion of Persons with Intellectual Disability.”
The occasion was graced by dignitaries from Special Olympics International including Ms. Lynn Tan, Director Initiatives, and Pam Rolink, Manager Initiatives from the Asia Pacific Region, and Air Cmde Lalit K Sharma, Executive Director of SO Bharat.
Lynn Tan, Director of Initiatives, Special Olympics Asia Pacific, said, “We want to empower young people to be changemakers to build a more inclusive society. The themes of changing mindsets through inclusive practices and sports as a tool for heightening Inclusion in educational institutions are aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. We are confident that by young people at the forefront of driving inclusion, the future generations will be more accepting and kind.”
Also present at the occasion was celebrity fitness expert, Sohrab Khushrushahi, Founder of SOHFIT, who led the athletes for a special fitness session and also spoke about inclusion via sports in schools. “At SOHFIT, fitness is a way of life. I want to make fitness more accessible and inclusive. It is a choice we can make and a choice each child should have access to via more inclusive sports practices in schools.”
Over 150 people joined the sessions including unified Sports and Panel Discussions. The Summit was made possible with the support of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the U.A.E., Ruler of Abu Dhabi, and Supreme Commander of the U.A.E. Armed Forces.