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Special Olympics and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Create Global Partnership to Advance the Rights of Women and Girls Worldwide

Memorandum of Understanding Signed During Nairobi Summit Commits to Using Transformative Power of Sport to Empower Women and Girls On and Off Field of Play.
Three men sitting at a table; each man on either side of the middle man are signing papers. Signage in the background reads: ICPD25 in partnership with Special Olympics.
Arthur Erken, Director of Communications and Strategic Partnerships, United Nations Population Fund, Charles Nyambe, Regional President and Managing Director, Special Olympics Africa and David Evangelista, Regional President and Managing Director, Special Olympics Europe Eurasia sign memorandum of understanding to create global partnership with the UNFPA.

Nairobi, Kenya - 13 November 2019: Special Olympics and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) today formalized their growing global partnership by signing a Memorandum of Understanding during the historic Nairobi Summit. The Summit marks the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) during which 179 governments committed to empowering women and girls to take an active role in charting their own future, and supporting the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals to benefit families, communities and nations.

Women and girls with intellectual and developmental disabilities remain one of the most at-risk and vulnerable population subsets worldwide, facing some of the highest rates of abuse and exploitation, across developed and developing economies alike, according to the 2018 UNFPA report Young Persons with Disabilities: Global Study on Ending Gender Based Violence, and Realising Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.

The partnership between these two global organizations represent a shared commitment to empower youth with intellectual disabilities, especially girls and women, to receive increased social protection and greater access to health services. For both parties, grass-roots inclusive sports represents a powerful platform to provide these opportunities since sport has the ability to unite, empower and level the playing field for all participants, especially girls.

Mr. David Evangelista, Regional President and Managing Director of Special Olympics Europe Eurasia commented at the announcement of the partnership that, “We cannot achieve the Sustainable Development Goals if we continue to exclude women and girls with intellectual disabilities. They are disproportionately disadvantaged and we need to ensure that, through our partnership with the UNFPA, we empower them to achieve their best – for them, for their communities, and for their nations.

“The UNFPA is proud to partner with Special Olympics as we look to harness the power of sport to drive social change for women and girls across the world. The plight facing women and girls, especially with intellectual and developmental disabilities, is an urgent development issue that needs increased action- and our partnership with Special Olympics is prepared to do just that.”
Mariarosa Cutillo, Head of Strategic Partnerships for UNFPA.

The announcement of the formal partnership between Special Olympics and the UNFPA was made during a co-convened session entitled “The Revolution is Inclusion: Sports and Empowerment”. This session brought together thought leaders, sports stars and sports administrators to share their commitment to using their reach in sport to uplift and include women and girls, but especially girls with intellectual disabilities.

About Special Olympics

Special Olympics is a global inclusion movement using sport, health, education and leadership programs every day around the world to end discrimination against and empower people with intellectual disabilities. Founded in 1968, and celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year, the Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 6 million athletes and Unified Sports partners in over 190 countries. With the support of more than 1 million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers 32 Olympic-type sports and over 100,000 games and competitions throughout the year. Special Olympics is supported by individuals, foundations and partners, including Bank of America, the Christmas Records Trust, The Coca-Cola Company, ESPN, Essilor Vision Foundation, the Golisano Foundation, IKEA Foundation, the Lane Family, the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics, Lions Clubs International, Safilo Group, Stavros Niarchos Foundation, TOYOTA, United Airlines, and The Walt Disney Company. Click here for a full list of partners. Engage with us on: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and our blog on Medium. Learn more at


UNFPA is the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency and the mission of the agency is to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person's potential is fulfilled.

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