To read on WR Commission website:
“I Can Make A Difference”
Organizations of persons with disabilities engaging in child protection and GBV programs in Lebanon
« When I go out, I feel different. I am the only one with Downs Syndrome. We do not see a lot of people with disabilities and that speaks volumes about the problems we face. It feels like I can make a difference here in Lebanon. » — Mia Farah
Fadia and Mia Farah live some 30 minutes outside of Beirut, in a quiet area surrounded by beautiful gardens and trees. There is even a sea view. Mia who has Downs Syndrome, is a strong advocate for the rights of persons with intellectual disabilities, with her mother, Fadia, acting as her support person. Fadia is also the President of the Lebanese Self Advocacy Association, or LASA, through which Mia and Fadia advocate for the rights of people with intellectual disabilities, not only in Lebanon but all over the world.
« After we [the Lebanese Self-Advocacy Association] started to work with refugees, we saw that the issue was serious and recurring. That is why we took an interest in learning more about how to stop the violence and provide help to these women and girls. Obviously, we are not doing enough, but I am glad we have projects like this to shed a light on the issue. » — Fadia Farah
In June 2017, Mia was chosen as the civil society representative to speak at the opening session of the 10th Session of the Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in New York. Mia’s speech, in which she spoke with emotion about the rights of persons with intellectual disabilities to vote in elections as well as her work with refugees with disabilities, triggered a standing ovation.
« I like to speak in public. It’s not hard, it’s like acting. In the beginning I get a little nervous, but once I start, I get very emotional. This is very close to my heart, » Mia says.
As a rights advocate and member of the board on LASA, Mia loves the outreach work. She has lived and traveled all over the world, but has now settled in Lebanon where she feels she can make the biggest difference.
Fadia says that in a country like Lebanon, it is still very difficult for a person with an intellectual disability to claim their rights and be viewed as a full and equal citizen. « [We] live in a country where people with intellectual disabilities are often placed in institutions. Society is not used to seeing someone like Mia, but with LASA’s work, we are slowly breaking down walls and getting through to people. The advocates [people like Mia], know about their rights and have the answers to many of these problems. »
Mia added, « Since I was young, I’ve taught my mom how to be inclusive in society. She would ask me why I am doing this and I said that I wanted to help people with disabilities. That was a long time ago and my mom has come so far and done so much to help us. »
Fadia and Mia are pursuing more projects with LASA to advocate for the needs of people with intellectual disabilities. and LASA is starting to work with refugees.