A Sibling’s view on Inclusion

Kajol’s Speech – World Down Syndrome Day

The United Nations, Geneva – 21st March 2019

Good morning everyone, 

There is so much that I have learnt over the past 24 years being the sister of this truly accomplished woman and so there is so much I can say. But, if there is one thing growing up beside Karishma has taught me, it is that the world – simply –  is not – black and white! There are no fixed-set of requisites that determine who can be successful. You can be anyone, from anywhere, having faced any challenges, and STILL make a difference and STILL positively impact the world. This is what I have learnt. But it doesn’t help that just I feel this way. Because the biggest barrier that lies between my sister and her accomplishments, or, our friends here today who very clearly are capable of making huge positive impact on the world – the biggest barrier would be if the society that they live in doesn’t believe in them…doesn’t give them the chance to grow to their truest potential and make that positive impact on the world.

As you would’ve heard Karishma say “My family is my strength”. And it’s true…we know that it’s the families that put in all the work to battle against some of the biggest challenges our friends face. But my parents, now mother and father to a 27-year-old adult can’t help but wonder —- “but what after us?” ——-“Who will be her strength after we are gone?”. And while I do reassure them that “I am still here. I am going nowhere” what I really wish for my sister and for all other people with Down’s Syndrome is for the world to allow them to become – their – own – strengths…Help them become the strong independent adults that we know they can be so that they don’t have to look outside for strength, but can find strength within themselves. And we all know what helps us feel strong from within – when we are confident of ourselves. When we are able to be independent. Have jobs. Support ourselves financially. Have a well-balanced life. All this makes us all feel strong from within doesn’t it? —–So why shouldn’t THEY be allowed to feel strong from within?  By having jobs, being able to support themselves financially, being able to live a social life just as colorful as their own personalities- they need to feel like they are their own strengths! After their parents, after their siblings, it’s just them. And if the society that they live in accepts them, understands them and celebrates the differences, gives them opportunities to support themselves, they can continue to find strength.

Awareness/acceptance/inclusivity for people with DS, it’s crucial not just because ‘it’s the right thing to do’, but also because by being impartial about who we give opportunities to, we as a community, or city, or a nation can expand the –  pool-  of  – Potential.  Positive.  Impact. The kind of positive impact the people in this room today are already making in this world!!!(whether this world fully accepts them or not!!) So we already know that they can do soo much! But there is so much more that is possible with the right help!  As we can see here today, there is quite a lot being accomplished by our friends already, and with even more acceptance and inclusion one can simply imagine…the possibilities are boundless…..Just think about it… (a long pause…)

Would like to just leave this thought with all of you here and out there in this world…

Thank you Karishma for being that beacon of light, the tallest lighthouse…

And thank you all.

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