Open Letter: G7 leaders told, don't fail children with disabilities

News and Press Release
Originally published

Open Letter: Don't fail children with disabilities, G7 leaders told More than 21,000 people from 73 countries have signed an open letter demanding that G7 leaders do not leave children with disabilities behind in this week's education commitments.

G7 Foreign and Development Ministers meeting this week must ensure inclusive, quality education is available and accessible to children with disabilities, according to thousands of signatories of the letter organised by the Equal World campaign (run by international NGO Sightsavers).

2021 is an important year for global education. The UK is hosting the G7 summit in Cornwall this week and the Global Education Summit in London this July. Both events will lead to funding commitments around global education.

33 million children with disabilities in low and middle income countries were already out of school before the pandemic, and the global literacy rate for women with disabilities is only one per cent. The Equal World campaign and its supporters say this is a vital opportunity to make sure all children have access to quality education.

Sightsavers' deputy CEO, Dom Haslam, said: "We are in a global learning crisis, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and children with disabilities are being left behind at a greater rate than ever before. Time is pressing and global leaders need to take urgent action to ensure these children are not failed by funding commitments. Every child has the right to a quality education."

The open letter outlines the high levels of gender and disability discrimination faced by children with disabilities even before school closures. It states that many who have been out of school during the past year will never return.

The campaign calls for the education crisis to be addressed by ensuring inclusive, quality education is available and accessible to all children with disabilities, particularly girls. In 2021, action must be taken to meet the commitments made in the G7 girls' education declaration and prioritise the children most at risk of being left behind.

The letter calls for leaders to commit to:

  • contributing to ambitious funding for the Global Partnership for Education
  • increasing aid for inclusive education
  • collecting and sharing disability data
  • making sure all education plans are gender and disability inclusive

Sightsavers' Global Lead for Inclusive Education, Liesbeth Roolvink, said: "Education is key to building the capacity of girls with disabilities to lift them out of poverty and empower them to be self-reliant. Building a truly inclusive education system is the only way to respond effectively to the current learning crisis. We can't fail these children now."

Sightsavers' campaign manager, Ross McMullan, said: "We're delighted to have gained 21,526 signatures to our open letter. It's vital that world leaders know they're being watched and held accountable for meeting their commitments as stated in the SDGs and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Children

with disabilities, and particularly girls, are at greater risk of missing out on education in the wake of the pandemic, and this represents a huge potential loss to society. We're grateful to our wonderful campaign supporters for taking action to call for inclusive education for children around the world."

Sightsavers has campaigned for disability-inclusive global development since 2013, and in that time has seen significant recognition of disability as a priority issue.

The open letter can be read here:

Children in Sierra Leone have been recorded voicing the message to world leaders here:


For more information please contact:

Tessa Pope - Senior media officer for inclusion, Sightsavers


P: +44 (0)1444 446741