ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA - 15 September 2023: A new partnership between Special Olympics Africa Region and Ethiopian Airlines will witness 115 delegates from 41 different countries globally gather in Addis Ababa for the Special Olympics Africa Leadership Conference from 18 – 20 September at the Ethiopian Skylight Hotel.
For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Africa Leadership Conference will take place in person and attendees will participate in three days of sessions that include Local Special Olympics Program Development, Program Governance and Government Relations, to name a few. These sessions will share best practices on tools for data collection and analysis, as well as marketing and communications strategies. This year marks the 19th Africa Leadership Conference and happens during the 55th anniversary year of the Special Olympics movement.
Special Olympics Africa Region has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) approving Ethiopian Airlines Group as the Official Carrier of the delegates for the 2023 Africa Leadership Conference.
“We are delighted to partner with Ethiopian Airlines as our official carrier of delegates for the 2023 Africa Leadership Conference. The significance of this partnership is based on the airline’s support for Special Olympics in the Africa Region, and the difference Ethiopian Airlines will make in creating much-needed awareness of Special Olympics athletes, emphasizing on their abilities which are usually shadowed by what is wrongly perceived as inabilities. Ethiopian Airlines is using its wings to reveal and deliver the message of resilience and bravery of Special Olympics athletes in the Africa Region.”
“Special Olympics Ethiopia is extremely proud to host the largest Africa Region event of the year, and to share its experiences and activities at this Africa Leadership Conference. The inclusion message of Special Olympics has already had a great impact in local communities since we started our Program in 2018, and we plan to reach more athletes with and without intellectual disabilities in more locations in the next five years,” said Mihret Nigussie Chengerei, Chair of Special Olympics Ethiopia.
“Having a child with an intellectual disability is often associated with feelings of shame and embarrassment, and even in contemporary Ethiopian society, misconceptions exist, such as this being a punishment from God,” explained Chengerei. “When a society misunderstands and underestimates the capabilities of people with intellectual disabilities, opportunities are lost. Special Olympics shows their capabilities and brings people together through sports, giving the chance to fight negative stereotypes and misperceptions. Our recognition as a sports federation in Ethiopia and our recent Special Olympics World Games 2023 successful participation in Berlin, Germany shows that our athletes can do anything.”
Potential of Inclusion and Unified Schools in Ethiopia
The Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools® program is a worldwide program for pre-school through university that promotes meaningful social inclusion by bringing together students with and without intellectual disabilities to create accepting school environments.Unified Champion Schools utilize three interconnected components—Special Olympics Unified Sports® activities, Inclusive Youth Leadership opportunities and Whole School Engagement, awareness and education activities that engage the student body in the message of inclusion. With sports as the foundation, Unified Champion Schools offers activities that equip young people with tools to create sports, classrooms and school climates of acceptance. With sports as the foundation, Unified Champion Schools offers activities that equip young people with tools to create sports, classrooms and school climates of acceptance.
Since 2008, the reach of Special Olympics Unified Schools in Africa Region has extended to encompass over 3,300 schools in 30 nations including Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria, Malawi, Tanzania and Senegal. This programming creates an environment where everyone feels welcome, valued and included both in school and in their local community.
In addition, Special Olympics has awarded 152 Innovation Grants to 207 Youth Leaders with and without intellectual disabilities from 17 countries, including Zimbabwe (17 grants), Kenya (13 grants) and Senegal (13 grants). These grants fund youth-led projects that promote inclusion in schools and communities across Africa.