Minister for Foreign Affairs Stubb and Signmark champion equality and tolerance in New York
On Wednesday, September 22, Finland organized a seminar on rights of persons with disabilities at its Consulate General in New York. The event was a joint brainchild of Mr. Alexander Stubb, Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Signmark (Mr. Marko Vuoriheimo), the first Deaf rap artist in the world.
The purpose of the seminar, entitled Label us able – Respect diversity and free the full potential of all individuals, was to emphasize equal rights and promote tolerance.
“Signmark, his background and his music have been the source of inspiration for the seminar”, Mr. Stubb said.
“Everyone should be given the chance to free their potential and fully participate in society. Signmark has proven that everything is possible”.
According to Mr. Stubb, states, international organizations and other relevant actors have a responsibility to advance everyone’s human rights in an equal manner. It is especially important to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to education. Mr. Stubb also emphasized the importance of cooperation between different actors, internationally as well as at the local level.
At the start of the seminar, Signmark inspired the audience by performing two songs, and also held a presentation later on. Signmark described how touring the world had taught him how diverse the status of deaf people and other minorities is in different countries. He said he had faced hardship and prejudice, but that he had been able to overcome it.
“Nobody comes to see a Signmark gig for pity. Signmark inspires people because it provides an example of overcoming obstacles”.
Also speaking at the seminar were Ms. Rachel Mayanja, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, and Mr. Shuaib Chalklen, Special Rapporteur on Disability of the UN Commission on Social Development. The seminar was moderated by Mrs. Anne Hayes of the World Bank’s Global Partnership on Disability and Development.
The seminar drew a total of over 80 participants from Permanent Missions to the UN, UN Agencies as well as non-governmental organizations. Ministers and Members of the European Parliament were also in the audience. The seminar was a success, particularly considering that it took place during the hectic opening week of the General Assembly.
As part of a series of events on this topic, Mr. Stubb and Signmark also organized the Silent Shout public event on September 23 in New York’s Washington Square Park. In Silent Shout, the artists and the audience perform together in sign language for equality and tolerance. The event has previously been organized in Stockholm and Hong Kong.
This week is celebrated worldwide as International Deaf Awareness Week.