Huong Dao Thu serves as a UN Volunteer Disability Rights Officer with the United Nations Development Programme in her home country, Viet Nam. Her assignment is part of a project supported by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) of Germany. Huong was deployed in May 2019 under a special partnership initiative of UNDP and the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme: the Talent Programme for Young Professionals with Disabilities. This offered 15 youth opportunities to acquire experience and contribute to the United Nations as UN Volunteers during 2018-2019. Another 16 UN Volunteers and several online volunteers with disabilities served across the UN family. On the occasion of International Volunteer Day 2019, Huong shares her experience with us.
As a UN Volunteer Disability Rights Officer with the Governance and Participation Unit of UNDP, I champion the rights of people with disabilities and act as a passionate voice for their support and inclusion.
In my assignment, I have brought together government partners and DPO representatives in workshops that offer a practical toolkit and cohesive outlook for the inclusion of disabled people in the workplace. By being there and leading these workshops myself, I demonstrate that just because a person has a disability, it does not mean that they are any less capable of delivering high quality outcomes in a professional environment.
I am committed to building the right support systems around people with disabilities and ensuring they are visible and engaged in society. In doing that, we can challenge perceptions and change mindsets about what it means to be disabled. --Huong Dao Thu, UN Volunteer Disability Rights Officer, UNDP Viet Nam
As a person with a disability, I often find people do not know how to approach and interact with me and children can be particularly uncertain. Recently, I ran an employment booth at an event marking International Youth Day. There were a lot of children present and while early on they appeared awkward and hesitant, we quickly became comfortable with each other.
The example with the children showed that how by simply interacting we were able to see we have more in common than we may appear to on the surface. While there is a long way to go, small examples like this help advance the rights of disabled people in a meaningful way.
I have received a lot of support during my assignment with UNDP. Before I joined UNDP, the team at UNV worked hard to ensure I had the necessary accommodations. This support has allowed me to realize my full potential in my assignment and I have not been constrained by practical barriers to my work.
This Talent Programme is a great example of how by facilitating greater participation of disabled people in the workforce, we deliver better outcomes for people with disabilities. I hope the programme will continue for many years and bring many other talented people with disabilities on board.
My favourite quote is: "If you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far, go together!" --Huong Dao Thu
Huong Dao Thu serves as a national UN Volunteer Disability Rights Officer with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Viet Nam. Here, she engages with children during celebrations of International Youth Day. (UNV, 2019)
This article was prepared with the kind assistance of Online Volunteer Helen Maccan