Founding members of the Maldives Autism Association, Madam Ilham Hussain and Ms. Aishath Zila,
Senior Management and staff of the Association,
Fellow students, ladies and gentlemen.
Assalaamu alaikum and a very good morning to you all! On behalf of UNDP, I am honoured to join in the Art of Mind Exhibition this year.
As you know, Greta Thunberg, a teenage environmental activist who gave an incredible speech at the UN Climate Summit last week, shared about her diagnosis and said, “I have Asperger’s and that means I’m sometimes a bit different from the norm. And being different is a superpower.”
Greta has proved how she can use her superpowers to make a difference. At just 15 years old, she started a school climate strike movement that has now gone global, calling leaders for stronger climate action.
This is why it is so important for people from diverse backgrounds to be a part of building our communities. What makes us different also gives us the ability to see the world differently, think creatively and even go beyond what others can do, if the society gives us a chance.
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals signed by all UN member states in 2015, pledged to ‘leave no one behind’ and create a peaceful and prosperous world for all. The 2030 Agenda can only be attained if people with disabilities are included as both agents of change and beneficiaries.
At UNDP, through our Smart City project, we work with partners such as the Maldives Autism Association (MAA) to ensure the equal participation of persons with disabilities (PWDs) in our efforts to build inclusive and resilient cities.
Last year, we had the “Promoting Disability Inclusive Development” Forum to come up with practical solutions to overcome the barriers faced by people with disabilities.
Since then, great work is being done by the partners of the Disability Working Group. The action plan developed at this forum is becomes a reality and even going beyond that to ensure that our island nation is inclusive and accessible to all.
Through our Global Environmental Facility (GEF) small grants project we work with NGOs to not only address global environment issues but also to integrate inclusion agenda.
This year’s grantees include those that focus on;
- Increasing accessibility to nature outings and public ferries for PWDs in Haa Alif Kela submitted by Island Development and Environmental Awareness Society (IDEAS)
- Increasing PWD engagement in urban organic agriculture and land rehabilitation in Hulhumale’ submitted by Care Society
- Building an accessible emission free transport for PWDs living in greater Male’ submitted by Maldives Association of Persons with Disabilities (MAPD).
And I am happy and privileged to note that Maldivian Autism Association is also a grantee and we will be signing an agreement with the Association today.
This project aims to reduce electricity expenditures by using Solar PV. The savings in cost will allow MAA to increase its service to the children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) while contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gases emission.
The project will also introduce an electrical charger plug in the premises to encourage the use of electric vehicles. I understand this will be the very first one for Hulhumale’.
As we move forward with sustainable development agenda, UNDP hopes to work closely with our key partners in bringing the voices of people with disabilities to the table of planning, policy and advocacy.
I would like to thank the Maldives Autism Association for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this wonderful initiative and acknowledge the remarkable work they continue to do.