We Decide … World Down Syndrome Day

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The United Nations designated 21 March as World Down Syndrome Day. This year’s theme is “We Decide”.

Initiatives around the world on this day are highlighting the effective and meaningful participation of persons with Down syndrome in both community and professional life. The aim of the event is to empower persons with Down syndrome, and those supporting them, encouraging greater inclusion, and overturning stereotypes.

One might wonder: what exactly is the link between socks and Down Syndrome? Chromosomes, the genetic make up of our DNA, look very much like socks. And since Down Syndrome is a result of an odd mutation in Chromosome 21, odd socks seem to be a perfect representation of this, reflecting the fact that while the socks might be different, they still serve their purpose!

March 21st was first declared as World Down Syndrome Day in December 2011 by the General Assembly of the United Nations. All Member States, relevant organisations within the United Nations and other international organisations, as well as civil society are invited to mark this day and raise awareness of what it means to live with Down Syndrome and how the people with this condition should be included in our lives and communities.

The date too has special significance: it highlights the uniqueness of the triplication of the 21st chromosome, which is what causes the condition, therefore 21-3. The condition which was first pointed out by John Langdon Down in 1866, is also known as Trisomy-21.

Down’s Syndrome is a genetic condition which affects people of all ages and races, irrespective of their lifestyle or background. It occurs approximately once in every 1000 live births globally, making it one of the most frequently occurring chromosomal anomalies in humans. It affects about 7 of all babies born in Malta each year.

While before very little was expected from the people who were born with Down Syndrome in terms of achievements and quality of life, it has become very clear that access to health care, early intervention programmes and inclusive education are all conducive and vital to the growth and development of these individuals.

“We Decide” is the chosen theme for this year’s World Down Syndrome Day, celebrating the fact that all people who are born with the condition are eligible to participate in the process of decision making, relating to matters which impact their life. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) stresses the importance of effective and meaningful participation as a core human right.

The overall aim of the day is to highlight the importance of inclusion within society which is made up of many different yet valid individuals, the value of accessible and relevant communication to all the stakeholders, while reaching out to the community at large in order to disseminate this message and bring about positive change.

Wear your odd socks with pride! They are a symbol of inclusion and equality, underlining the global theme to ‘leave no-one behind’!


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