Melanie provides Downs Syndrome sufferers with a heroine

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By Robert Hackwill
Melanie provides Downs Syndrome sufferers with a heroine

Mélanie’s dream came true, but it remains an exception.

On 14th March a young French woman with Down’s Syndrome presented the weather program on the public French channel, France2.

Only few weeks before, she set up a Facebook page explaining her project: her social campaign went viral.

The 21st of March is Down’s Syndrome day worldwide and Melanie’s story is quite inspiring. As she says: “I am different and so what?”

“Melanie’s experience was a great one and the message quite strong: if you want something you can get it, and if you’ve got a big public support it is simpler. It’s evident that there are some kind of jobs that are easier to do or access; this one is an exception,” says the President of the Italian Association of Downs sufferers, Paulo Grillo.

Even though life expectancy increased enormously between 1960 and 2007 there remains no medical treatment for Down’s Syndrome, a chromosomal anomaly which causes intellectual deficiencies.

Like Melanie, 65,000 people have this syndrome in France. It is among the most common of genetic disorders.

The World Health Organisation says the estimated incidence of Downs Syndrome is between 1 in 1000 to 1 in 1,100 live births worldwide. The risk rises with the age of the mother at birth.

Taboos abound; it is still not easy to speak about this subject openly. Education and school are on the frontline of the struggle to break barriers and prejudice.

Several European programs are attempting to help integration into the labour market for people with Down’ Syndrome.

“We’ve got common projects on access to the labour market for people with Downs Syndrome. There are European Projects like between Italy, Spain, Portugal and even France, where hotels, for example, organize training for permanent jobs,” says Grillo.

Politically speaking, despite the sensibility and activism, the subject is still a marginal one.
In France’s current presidential election campaign, for example, despite Melanie’s media splash, the issue is almost entirely absent.