We work with national organisations to develop self-advocacy in their countries and we support self-advocates directly to advocate for their rights at important global events.


The challenge

People with Down syndrome often have a limited voice in the decisions and changes that affect them. Decisions are often made without consideration of their opinions and preferences, and as a result their rights are frequently violated.


What we do

We promote the development of self-advocacy around the world through:

  • Training national Down syndrome organisations to establish and support self-advocacy groups;
  • Organising events and opportunities for self-advocates with Down syndrome to speak and have their voices heard;
  • Establishing global campaigns and supporting self-advocates to take part in them.

Long term impact

"A self-advocate speaks up for themself. I have learned to stand on my own two feet" - Senam, self-advocate, Turkey

For a person with Down syndrome self-advocacy is about developing their skills, knowledge and self-confidence to be able to engage with people effectively, take part in work or social situations, and understand their rights and responsibilities as citizens. It is also about taking action and advocating for change, whether at personal, local or national level.

For many people with Down syndrome self-advocacy has a profound impact on their lives – providing them with the confidence to take control and participate in their communities with confidence.


Example 1 - Nigeria

We supported Down Syndrome Foundation Nigeria to establish a self-advocacy group for people with Down syndrome. We provided ongoing support and helped to evaluate their progress to plan the next steps for the group.

This will have a positive impact on their lives but will also play a role in promoting the rights of people with Down syndrome in Nigeria. 

Read more about the project here:

Nigeria self-advocacy


Example 2 - Bangladesh

We trained members of Down Syndrome Society of Bangladesh to become self-advocacy group facilitators. We are supporting them to start a self-advocacy group for people with Down syndrome.

Read more about the project here:

Bangladesh self-advocacy


Example 3 - Turkey

We trained a group of self-advocacy facilitators from Down Turkey and over 10 months supported them to establish and run a self-advocacy group for people with Down syndrome.

Self-advocates from the group have spoken at the UN in New York and the Turkish Parliament and been interviewed on Turkish CNN. Read more about our Turkey project here:

Turkey self-advocacy


Example 4 - WDSD Geneva 2019

On WDSD we organised an event at the United Nations in Geneva to give self-advocates with Down syndrome a chance to speak up about their rights to employment. Self-advocates spoke strongly about their right to work and to have a decent job with fair working conditions.

Read more here:

Self-advocates in Geneva


Example 5 - Self-advocacy programme at WDSC

We ran 6 self-advocacy workshops over 3 days at the World Down Syndrome Congress in Glasgow. The workshops were attended by over 70 people with Down syndrome from around the world and covered themes including community, human rights and speaking up.

The workshops supported self-advocates to relate difficult subjects such as human rights to their life experiences. There was a high level of enthusiasm and engagement in the subjects and some very interesting insights from different countries.


Example 6 - UAE

We are training staff from Emirates Down Syndrome Association to be self-advocacy group facilitators and supporting them to establish and run a self-advocacy group for people with Down syndrome in Dubai.

Read more here:

UAE self-advocacy


Example 7 - Kosovo

We are training staff from Down Syndrome Kosova to be self-advocacy group facilitators and supporting them to establish and run a self-advocacy group for people with Down syndrome in Kosovo.

Read more here:

Kosovo self-advocacy


Read about our other areas of work here:

Our work