Special Olympics Florida

The Revolution is Inclusion: First-ever Special Olympics athlete-led panel convenes at United Nations

Tajha Ilerant demands inclusion for all during 12th session of the Conference of States Parties 

 On Monday, June 10, Special Olympics International, in partnership with the United Nations Division for Inclusive Social Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the Permanent Mission of Ecuador to the United Nations (UN) hosted a panel discussion at the United Nations in conjunction with the 12th session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Tajha Ilerant joined five Special Olympics athlete leaders from Zimbabwe, Brazil, the United Arab Emirates, Missouri and California promoting the need for inclusive policies and programs for people with intellectual disabilities (ID).  Titled, “The Revolution is Inclusion: Sport as a Catalyst for Social Inclusion,” Ilerant joined the panelists to discuss how sports helped her to develop skills and become a leader in Florida. All athletes underscored how the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) commitments and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cannot be met unless individuals with ID are among the decision makers – ensuring that all persons with ID, who are often overlooked and misunderstood, have equal rights as those without ID, as well as equitable access to services and resources, including sport, which has the power to change attitudes and foster inclusion.  

“My role as a Global Youth Ambassador is important to me because it gives me the voice to advocate for myself and for my friends,” Ilerant said. “Everyone in this world is made to matter. I hope to achieve my goal of becoming a public speaker so that I can share my story in hopes of helping others. Just like Loretta Claiborne inspired me, I hope to inspire others.” 

Ambassador Luis Gallegos, Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations gave opening remarks, with Mr. Dustin Plunkett, Special Olympics Athlete and Manager of Outreach and Athlete Leadership, Special Olympics Southern California, moderating the panel. Other panelists included:

  • Nyasha Derera, Special Olympics Athlete (Zimbabwe); Special Olympics Sargent Shriver International Global Messenger; Chairman, Special Olympics Global Athlete Congress; Director
  • Special Olympics International Board of Directors; Certified Sports Official, International Association of Athletics Federations
  • Emanuelle de Souza, Special Olympics Athlete (Brazil); Special Olympics Sargent Shriver International Global Messenger
  • Chaica Al Qassimi, Special Olympics Athlete and Leader (United Arab Emirates)
  • Jared Niemeyer, Special Olympics Athlete (Missouri, USA); Member, Special Olympics Missouri Board of Directors; Self Advocate

“As a Special Olympics board member and active contributor to building more inclusive policies and practices, I have witnessed the transformative power of sports in changing mindsets and erasing negative stereotypes,” said Ambassador Luis Gallegos. “The SDGs simply can’t be met if the most marginalized and vulnerable population of people aren’t heard, aren’t included, aren’t decision makers.  Inclusion should be a cross-cutting theme throughout the entire international development agenda.”