Sophie Morgan announced as face of Leonard Cheshire campaign

Disability charity, Leonard Cheshire, has announced TV presenter and disability activist, Sophie Morgan, as the face of their Inclusive Education in Zambia campaign. Sophie spoke with Saskia Harper.

Leonard Cheshire is raising funds and awareness for the work they do in the southern African country, where they already support hundreds of children with disabilities into education.

Sophie, who is a wheelchair user, is well known for presenting the Paralympics and the BBC programme, The World’s Worst Place to be Disabled, and is an award-winning disability activist.

“In some developing countries, over in Zambia for example, they struggle with a lot of the same things we struggle with here: funding, resources, making schools accessible,” explains Sophie.

“But, there are often other complications that maybe require the support from organisations like Leonard Cheshire. This input can help to overcome some of these problems, and learn from what we’ve learned here.”

The Zambian project will reach 750 children across 30 primary schools; train 100 teachers and education officials, enabling them to make their schools more inclusive; and will also work with parents and guardians, to reduce the stigma.

Currently, only 10 per cent of disabled children attend school, and the literacy rate for disabled adults is three per cent. For women and girls with disabilities, the literacy rate drops to one per cent, and disabled women are more vulnerable to sexual violence.

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As a reporter I have witnessed first-hand how the stigma attached to #disability can lead to devastating consequences. And as someone with a disability I believe there is no greater casualty of such prejudice and discrimination than disabled children. Across Africa, children with physical, sensory and intellectual impairments are being left behind, and often even the simplest solutions can make all the difference. Where these solutions matter most is in schooling, without which generations of disabled children will fail to live the life they deserve. Leonard Cheshire’s inclusive education projects in Africa and Asia have supported more than 30,000 children into education. Only 10% of children with disabilities attend school globally*, and the literacy rate for adults with disabilities is 3%**. The picture for women with disabilities is even bleaker at just 1% and young girls growing up with disabilities in Africa can suffer the most intense stigma and in some cases, sexual violence. In Zambia, the situation is typical, and children are often denied a school place due to their disability. The Zambian project will see Leonard Cheshire’s work expand to the Eastern Province of the country and reach 750 children across 30 primary schools for the first time.  It will also train 100 teachers and education officials, giving them tools to ensure inclusive learning, and will work with parents and pupils, running child to child clubs and encouraging male mentors to reduce stigma. Tomorrow morning i will voice Leonard Cheshire's #BBC Radio 4 appeal that will raise funds to support this project. The appeal will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at the following times: Sunday 6th Jan:  0754am Sunday 6th Jan: 21.25pm Thursday 10th Jan: 15.27pm Please show your support and donate if you can. Thank you and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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“We do have our problems here in the UK and we can’t profess to be perfect,” admits Sophie. 

“However, in some developing countries, and areas where there are fewer resources, these problems can be magnified and the challenges that we face here can be multiplied by 100.”

The campaign has teamed up with BBC Radio 4, to broadcast the appeal to the station’s listeners. It will appear on air at 15.27 on Thursday (10 January), and will tell the stories of children who have already benefitted from the work Leonard Cheshire does in Zambia.

To find out more about the campaign, or to donate, head to the BBC Radio 4 website here.

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