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ARRAS, France – Eleonore Laloux has battled all her life to be treated like others. Now the 34-year-old is waging a new campaign: to become one of the first women in France with Down syndrome to win a local council seat in this month’s municipal elections. Armed with a broad smile and a gritty determination, Laloux is canvassing for support in Arras, her hometown in northern France, talking up her ambitions for a cleaner town and improved access for disabled people. But above all, a fairer society. “I’ve fought hard to live with Down syndrome. It doesn’t trouble me any longer,” Laloux said. “Now I am fighting for inclusion. Handicapped people have their place in society.” As a young girl, Laloux’s parents refused to place her in a special needs school, instilling in their daughter a self-belief that would later help her overcome bullies and secure a job as an administrator in a private hospital. She has made peace with her condition, she said. She founded “Friends of Eleonore”, an association which challenges the social stigmas confronting Down sufferers and has written a book, “Down syndrome, so what?” aloux’s drive has not let up as she makes her first foray into politics. She has drawn up a list of a dozen priorities for Arras, a relatively affluent town of 40,000 people in the economically depressed northeast of France. They include audio and brail aides to help the hard of hearing and sight cross streets, electric buses with wheelchair ramps and dedicated parks for dogs. “I have loads of ideas in my head. I work on them every morning, every day,” she told one Arras resident on a walkabout in the town’s Baroque main square last week. Laloux is running on the ticket of incumbent mayor Frederic Leturque, a centrist who won more than half the vote in 2014 and is favorite to win again. “The disability she has, the force of her character, the ideas she has, will make us think differently,” Leturque told Reuters after a meeting with his team of candidates. When she’s not at work or on the campaign trail, Laloux will pick up her electric guitar to relax. Bob Dylan is a favorite. With less than two weeks until the March 15 first round of France’s municipal elections, Laloux is making headway in persuading townsfolk that she is a deserving candidate. “I was surprised when I saw her on the list. But you know, what a great idea,” chocolate shop worker Chantal Legrand said, turning to Laloux to add: “I’m happy for you.”
Ibrahim al-Kholy, an Egyptian who was born with Down syndrome, was appointed as a teaching assistant in the University of Canada in Egypt’s Mass Communication, Radio and Television department.   The 24-year-old fresh graduate launched his academic career this October in the same university, where he also received his bachelor’s degree. “The University of Canada in Egypt, led by its President Mhamoud Abo Elnasr and the whole board, are the pioneers who first implemented the inclusion system in university faculties,” Kholy stated during his interview on Al Ghad (Tomorrow) TV. Kholy further pointed out that there is a special system customized for students with disabilities that has been implemented across the university’s faculties. “Under the same system, I was appointed as a teaching assistant,” he mentioned, also paying tribute to all the support he received over his past years in the university. Kholy said he chose the department of mass communication due his deep love and enthusiasm for the camera, editing, lighting and more. “My dream is to become a TV presenter,” he stated. Kholy’s mother said in the same interview that 24 years ago, it was generally believed that people with disabilities will never accomplish anything. However, she strongly believes that her son’s future will be crowned with numerous achievements. Besides his  eagerness  to carve out a promising career, the newly hired TA is also a sports champ who is currently representing Egypt at a tennis championship in Brisbane, Australia. Kholy started his sports career at an early age and earned second place in his first international sports championship, which was held in Italy in 2008 when he was 13. This year a significant joint collaboration was launched between Orascom, the  European Union  and UNICEF. The collaborative forum was titled “Empowering inclusion of the differently abled” and was attended by representatives from Egypt’s private and governmental sectors. The forum discussed the importance of issuing legislation that secures the inclusion people with disabilities in varied vocational sectors. Similarly, for the first time in Egypt and the Arab world, the “UN-ARTS” committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Egypt selected Egyptian swimmer Mohamed al-Husseini, born with Down syndrome, as the committee ’ s official spokesperson in Egypt and abroad, according to a prior official statement from UN-ARTS, in June 2019. Photo credit: Scoop Empire
Heba Atef became the first-ever Egyptian flight attendant with Down syndrome to embark on a special flight from Cairo to Khartoum entitled “The Journey of Humanity,” starting on Saturday, November 30 and lasting until Thursday, December 5.   Atef, a student at the Arab Open University in Egypt (AOU), accompanied a group of passengers with special needs alongside their families during the journey. In collaboration with the Badr Aviation Company and Smart Mind Training Center in Khartoum, the remarkable “Journey of Humanity” took place under the sponsorship of the UN International Committee and was specifically tailored for people with special needs. The trip headed to Sudan to attend several workshops supporting participants with special needs. A flight attendant’s uniform was customized especially for Atef, according to her mother, with Atef asserting that the experience did not frighten her, Hon News outlet reported. A previous interview with Atef on OnE Channel revealed that she has overcome a number of challenges, especially in 2011, when she was diagnosed with blood cancer. However, Atef fought the disease courageously, winning her battle with cancer after five grueling years.  Atef was also persistent in completing her education despite her illness, discovering after attending university that she was the only student with Down syndrome in her classes, according to the same interview.  No challenge is too big for Atef, however, who joined the department of Radio and Television at her university, launching her career as a TV presenter. She presented at the Bokra Ahla (Tomorrow is Better) Conference addressing people with special needs and has been honored by Rotary Port Said and 57357 Hospital as well.  Meanwhile, Atef’s passions are diverse, citing an interest in music as well as drawing and painting. Remarkably, she was invited by the UN’s cultural committee alongside the Belgium Embassy in Cairo to showcase her painting in a ceremony celebrating various art works by contemporary artists. Atef was honored at that event, with 17 people form countries around the world signing her painting.  Atef also met Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi alongside Egyptian Minister of Culture Inas Abdel Dayem at the opening of the 2019 Cairo International Book Fair, where she participated in several activities focused on art.   Atef is known for motivational quote that reads: “We teach people love and a desire to be alive — we are here to put smiles on people’s faces and give them hope.” Back in June, the “UN-ARTS” committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Egypt selected Egyptian swimmer Mohamed al-Husseini, who was born with down syndrome, as the committee’s official spokesperson in Egypt as well as abroad. In October 2018, Ibrahim al-Kholy, another Egyptian born with down syndrome, was appointed as a teaching assistant at the University of Canada in Egypt’s Mass Communication, Radio and Television department. Meanwhile, a significant joint collaboration project was launched this year between Orascom, the  European Union  and UNICEF. The collaborative forum was entitled “Empowering inclusion of the differently-abled” and was attended by representatives from Egypt’s private and governmental sectors. The forum discussed the importance of issuing legislation that secures the inclusion of people with disabilities across various vocational sectors. A newly released report by UNDP indicates that there are nearly 12 million people with special needs in Egypt. Photo credit: Women Of Egypt
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