World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD), observed annually on March 21st, is a pivotal event that brings the global community together in support of individuals with Down syndrome. To amplify its impact, Down Syndrome International (DSi) thoughtfully selects an annual theme that serves as the cornerstone of a comprehensive worldwide campaign. This theme is not just a slogan; it encapsulates a set of goals and aspirations that guide the collective efforts of the Down syndrome community. By rallying around a common theme, individuals, families, and organizations unite their voices to advocate for the steps necessary to ensure the complete inclusion of people with Down syndrome in every facet of society.
The themes chosen for WDSD are reflective of the ongoing journey towards empowerment, inclusion, and equality for those with Down syndrome. They are carefully crafted to inspire action, foster understanding, and ignite change.
Let’s explore the themes from recent years in greater detail:
- 2023 – With Us Not For Us: This theme emphasizes the importance of participatory decision-making, highlighting that policies, programs, and decisions should be made with the active involvement of individuals with Down syndrome rather than on their behalf. It’s a call to recognize them as equal partners in the conversation about their lives and the issues that affect them.
- 2022 – Inclusion Means: This theme explored the true essence of inclusion, encouraging society to embrace diversity and ensure that people with Down syndrome are afforded the same opportunities as others to participate in all aspects of life. It was a reminder that inclusion is not just physical presence but also involves meaningful engagement and the removal of barriers.
- 2021 – Connect: In a year marked by global disconnection due to the pandemic, this theme was a rallying cry to strengthen bonds within the Down syndrome community and beyond. It underscored the importance of connectivity in overcoming isolation and fostering a supportive network for individuals with Down syndrome and their families.
- 2020 – We Decide: Focusing on autonomy and self-determination, this theme asserted the right of people with Down syndrome to make their own choices and be actively involved in decisions about their lives. It was a declaration of their agency and their ability to contribute to society when allowed to do so.
- 2019 – Leave No One Behind: This powerful theme was a commitment to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly the pledge to ensure that no one is left behind as we progress towards a more sustainable and equitable world. It called for the inclusion of people with Down syndrome in all aspects of life, recognizing their potential and the value they add to our communities.
- 2018 – What I Bring to My Community: This theme celebrated the unique contributions individuals with Down syndrome make to their local communities. It highlighted how embracing diversity can lead to stronger, more vibrant social fabrics where everyone has a role to play.
- 2017 – My Voice My Community: This theme emphasized the importance of giving individuals with Down syndrome a platform to voice their opinions and participate in community life. It was about empowering them to speak up, be heard, and influence government policy and action, thereby ensuring that they can be active members of their communities.
- 2016 – My Friends, My Community: The focus was on the benefits of inclusive environments for today’s children and tomorrow’s adults. It showcased how inclusive friendships and communities are paramount for mutual growth, learning, and understanding, reinforcing the idea that everyone has a place in society.
- 2015 – My Opportunities, My Choices: This theme highlighted the significance of offering people with Down syndrome the same opportunities as others in making life choices. From education to employment, it was a call to recognize the right to choose one’s path and the need for support systems to make those choices a reality.
- 2014 – Health and Wellbeing – Access and Equality for All: A theme that underscored the importance of access to healthcare and programs that promote well-being for individuals with Down syndrome. It was a reminder that health and well-being are fundamental rights and that equitable access is essential for a dignified life.
- 2013 – Right to Work: Focused on the right of people with Down syndrome to gainful employment, this theme tackled the barriers to entering the workforce and the benefits of having a diverse workplace. It advocated for the right to work and the positive contributions that individuals with Down syndrome can make in the professional sphere.
- 2012 – Building Our Future: This theme laid the foundation for future advocacy by emphasizing the importance of investing in people with Down syndrome. It was about looking ahead and creating a society where everyone has the opportunity to fulfill their potential.
Each of these themes has been a step forward in the journey toward a society where individuals with Down syndrome are valued, included, and given the chance to lead fulfilling lives. Through these annual campaigns, DSi and the global Down syndrome community continue to break down barriers, challenge misconceptions, and advocate for the rights and inclusion of people with Down