Sama Ramy is a 19-year-old person with Down syndrome. In her first year of high school, during biology class, she was surprised to discover that people with Down Syndrome are described in the book as “Mongolian idiots”. She sent a voice mail to the minister of Education requesting that such an offensive term be changed and he agreed to remove it from all curricula. Ever since then, Sama has had a personal mission to change society’s perception of people with Down syndrome. We sat down with her to know all about it.
“God created me with an extra chromosome. Everyone has 46 chromosomes but I have 47. It makes me unique.”
“Like everyone my age, I went to school normally from pre-school to high school. I have friends who love and support me and whom I love too. I never felt like I was different from them. On the contrary, I’m just like them. God created us to teach people how to love each other,” said Sama.
Tell us about the message you sent to the Minister of Education
In the chapter on genetics from my biology book, they described people with Down syndrome as ‘Mongolian idiots’. I reject this description.
I launched a Facebook campaign to change this term and sent a voice mail to Minister Tarek Shawky, asking him to have the term removed from our books.
“He responded to my message and officially adopted Down syndrome as the only correct term for us.”
After that, I also reached out to Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, the Minister of Higher Education, and asked that he remove the term from university books as well. The president of Cairo University ended up removing the term from all university books.
How did you come to be a goodwill ambassador?
Dr. Nancy Hady, the regional director of the Good will Ambassadors Organization nominated me to be the first goodwill ambassador with down syndrome from Egypt and the Arab World. It’s because I was able to make change in society, my message to the minister affected change.
You’re currently a student of international transportation and logistics in the Arab Academy for Science, Technology, and Maritime Transport. What do you want to do after you graduate?
The Secretary-General of The Arab Council for Social Responsibility Dr. Randa Rizk nominated me for a scholarship at the Academy and the president agreed to grant me the scholarship!
After graduation, I plan to work with my dad in the field of shipping and transport. I’m really passionate about this field. I would be the first person with Down syndrome in it.
What are the terms we shouldn’t use when talking about people with Down syndrome and the differently-abled?
I started an initiative to legally change the term from “disabled” to “differently-abled” and I presented it to ambassador Bassam Rady, the spokesman for the president’s office. He promised me things will change.
I also reached out to Ashraf Sobhy, the minister of youth and sports, and prime minister Mostafa Madbouly to replace the term disabled with differently-abled nationwide.
Sama Ramy, how do you believe Egypt can become a more inclusive place for the differently-abled?
Egypt is the mother of the world, it also needs to be a mother to the differently-abled.
“I want Egypt to be a pioneer in affecting change and empowering the differently-abled. I will keep working towards this until the whole of society changes its view of us.”