World Down Syndrome Day 2023
How to join in the celebrations and promote the rights of people with Down syndrome on 21 March
1 Mar 2023

About WDSD

World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD), is a global awareness day celebrated on 21 March and officially observed by the United Nations since 2012. The date for WDSD, the 21st day of the 3rd month, signifies the three copies (trisomy) of the 21st chromosome, which causes Down syndrome.

The goal of WDSD is to raise awareness about Down syndrome and advocate for the rights of people with Down syndrome. People with Down syndrome face discrimination, exclusion from society, and lack of access to basic services such as education and healthcare.

What is Down syndrome?

Down syndrome is a condition that is present in all humans, regardless of race, gender or socio-economic status. It affects about 1 in 800 people, but the number can vary from place to place. It is caused by having an extra copy of chromosome 21. Down syndrome usually causes a degree of intellectual and physical disability, which varies from person to person. With accessible communication and the right support, people with Down syndrome can do all the same things as everyone else.

What happens on WDSD?

WDSD is an opportunity for people around the world to celebrate and raise awareness about Down syndrome. People with Down syndrome, families and the organizations that represent them, use the day to advocate for their human rights to be respected, protected and fulfilled. It is also a great opportunity for people to show their support for the cause. Down Syndrome International (DSi) will be organizing events at the UN Office at Geneva and the UN Headquarters in New York. These events happen every year and provide a platform for the Down syndrome community to engage with the UN system. As well as these UN events, there are hundreds of events organized on 21 March in countries around the world by local Down syndrome organizations.

WDSD theme

Each year, the Down Syndrome International network chooses a theme for WDSD to generate conversations about important issues related to the lives of people with Down syndrome. Previous themes have been: ‘We Decide’, ‘Leave No One Behind’, ‘Connect’ and ‘Inclusion Means’. This year the theme is ‘With Us Not For Us’. The Down syndrome community will be using this theme to push for support that respects their right to make their own decisions; people with Down syndrome to be included in the work of organizations; and for decision-makers to involve people with Down syndrome and their representative organisations.

WDSD campaign

This year, the Down Syndrome International network is also doing a joint campaign on the right to legal capacity and supported decision-making. This is a very important issue as many people with Down syndrome around the world are denied legal capacity. Legal arrangements like guardianship stop people from making their own decisions or people don’t have proper support to make decisions for themselves. Without legal capacity, people with Down syndrome are unable to make the important decisions about their lives that other people take for granted. For example: decisions about where and with who they live with; decisions about their healthcare; getting married and having a family; controlling their own money and being able to own property.

Events at UN Office at Geneva (UNOG)

The Down Syndrome International network is organizing two events on 21 March this year, hosted by UNOG: a World Down Syndrome Assembly and a side event to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Both events will provide opportunities for self-advocates with Down syndrome to speak up for their rights. 

The focus for these events is raising awareness of the new UN Resolution on “Promoting and mainstreaming easy-to-understand communication for accessibility for persons with disabilities”, passed in December 2022.

Conference at UN Headquarters, New York

The Down Syndrome International network is hosting its 12th annual World Down Syndrome Conference on 21 March at the UN Headquarters in New York. The Conference is a chance for people from around the world to meet and share ideas on World Down Syndrome Day. This Conference will focus on the right to legal capacity, supported decision-making and easy to understand communication.

How to take part in WDSD

WDSD is a day for everyone to celebrate and advocate for the rights of people with Down syndrome. All support for the WDSD and its positive message of inclusion make a difference, no matter how small. Some ideas for how to take part include:

• Learning more about Down syndrome and disability rights

• Reaching out to your local Down syndrome organisation

• Attending a local WDSD event

• Sharing the ‘With Us Not For Us’ theme messages

• Writing or recording something to explain what ‘With Us Not For Us’ means to you

• Advocating for inclusion in your workplace and community

Each year WDSD gets bigger as more people join the conversation, sending a powerful message that the world is becoming more inclusive of people with Down syndrome.

If you would like to get involved, you can find out more information on the official WDSD website: 

* Nathan Rowe is the Programme Director at Down Syndrome International.
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