World Down Syndrome Day was marked with several events and a campaign to raise awareness of the rights of people with Down syndrome on 21 March in Georgia. Stigma, stereotypes, and low levels of awareness about the issue remain widely visible in the country.
Down Syndrome Day, observed on 21 March every year, has been officially observed by the United Nations since 2012. This year, the day was dedicated to the theme of full inclusion and the direct and conscious participation of people with Down syndrome in social and political life.
Chairman of Parliament, Irakli Kobakhidze, said that ‘it is the day reminding us that there are people living by our side who are the equal, full-fledged and dignified members of our society’.
The Public Defender, Ucha Nanuashvili, said that ‘it is important for the state to care for the realisation of the rights of people with Down syndrome from an early age’. He also underlined the necessity of creating better services for them, promoting independent living, and increasing access to social and healthcare programmes and quality inclusive education.
The 2017 campaign was named ‘My Voice My Community’, which according to Nanuashvili, allows people with Down syndrome to speak up, be heard, and influence government policy and action to be fully included in the community.
Georgia’s agenda, according to him, includes providing additional support to families of children with Down syndrome, as they are often at risk of abandonment, and people placed in state institutions still do not receive proper support.
Public stigma and negative attitudes prevent people with Down syndrome from taking advantage of all the opportunities available to them and effectively participating in society, Nanuashvili pointed out, and despite the voices of people with Down syndrome becoming stronger in Georgia, the state efforts to satisfy their needs and interests are not sufficient, he claimed.
Given the context, the Public Defender called on the Georgian authorities to respond to the needs of people with Down syndrome and to ensure their equal engagement in political and public life by taking appropriate measures.