Claudia Werneck

Ashoka Fellow
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Fellow Since 2003


This profile was prepared when Claudia Werneck was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2003.
The New Idea
Through her work as a journalist, Cláudia realized that often even parents and health professionals knew little or nothing about Down's syndrome. Her perplexity led her to take on the struggle for social inclusion of people with medical disabilites. She created Escola de Gente, with the dual mission of promoting values inspired by human diversity through activities involving communication about inclusion and focusing on the defense of rights of children and youth with disabilities.
Through her school, Cláudia stimulates Brazilian youth to become agents of inclusion. In contrast to what happens with most capacity-building efforts in Brazil, which are generally focused on teachers and managers, Cláudia works with youth 13 to 26, because she believes that without the creativity, ethics, and flexibility of youth, building an inclusive society will be a very long process. The goal is a society that conforms to United Nations Resolution 45/91, which calls for a change in the global focus in terms of disabilities, and works toward the transition from awareness to action in order to build a world that includes rights and opportunities for everyone by the year 2010.
Cláudia knows that it is not enough simply to want to stop discriminating, but rather, that it requires study, constant effort, and learning from mistakes. Thus, she believes that youth and adults should work together toward inclusion by starting in school, which she considers a country's greatest asset. This approach allows the student to transcend the role of mere recipient of information, and instead, to contribute to the implementation of the ideas being learned. Her project treats young people as partners in the collective construction of ideas and expands their impact in ensuring that future generations of Brazilians will find a society that is more like what they want it to be.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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