Have you ever seen dancing in wheelchairs? How about ethnic dancing? Trust us, it’s fantastic! At some moment, the viewer forgets that the dancing person has a disability. There is such lightness and beauty, grace and power in the motion. There are astounding moves and pirouettes that seem impossible for people in wheelchairs.
Visitors of Tajikistan’s First National Congress of People with Disabilities were able to enjoy such performances. This was initiated by the Foundation for Assistance to Children with Disabilities “NEKI”, The Tajikistan’s National Union of People with Disabilities, and the Society of Disabled People of Dushanbe. The girls who performed a Tajik ethnic dance in wheelchairs sparked a furor!
With my dance, I want to show that we are fully developed members of society, and that society should not repel us, but utilize our potential,” said 24-year old Shahzoda Sultonbaeva from the Society of Disabled People of Dushanbe.
In addition to the group performance, she also danced a “Combo” together with her dance partner. Dances and creative activities were only one part of what people with disabilities wanted to show and discuss at the Congress.
Our main problem is the lack of infrastructure in buildings and transportation. Minivans (marshrutki) don’t take us. It’s difficult to get in and get out. We have problems getting jobs. The authorities are trying to help us, and they create jobs. About 60% of disabled people out of 41,000 registered in Sogdy oblast are women. There is a UN Convention for Protection of Disabled Peoples’ Rights. We want Tajikistan to join it,” said Ramziddin Djuraev, the head of the Society of disabled people of Sogdy oblast.
As the Chairman of Tajikistan’s National Union of Disabled People Asadullo Zikirhudoev noted, the aim of the National Congress is to improve society’s awareness on life, achievements and the rights of the people with disabilities. Additional goals include supporting their social integration through education, and potential growth by active participation in cultural, educational and sports events. For instance, the Congress’ motto was “Together We Are the Power.”
According to the organizers, the idea to hold the Congress came just a month ago. Luckily, it was supported by the US Embassy. It was especially pleasant because a lot of young people took part in the event.
There are still stereotypes that disabled people can neither work nor study. It is especially difficult for disabled girls from villages to settle into their lives, get an education and get married. In the cities, conditions for people with disabilities are improving. I hope that this Congress will help us to be heard,” said one of the girls.
Another essential problem is the deficit of wheelchairs. The ones that are brought in can only be used for several months. This is especially true in regions, where there are almost no conditions for people with disabilities. It is suggested that this issue be raised at the government level. Every year in other countries, there are congresses for the people with disabilities. The global congress of people with disabilities was initiated by a representative from Germany, Mr. Thomas. Thomas came to Dushanbe to participate in the congress.
This September, the First World Congress of People with Disabilities opened in Yekaterinburg, Russia. It brought together participants from 27 countries. “The idea to organize our Congress of Disabled People came to us in Yekaterinburg. We wanted to change the way people look at us. We wanted to be fully developed members of the society,” said Asadulol Zikirhudoev.
Recently, a beauty pageant for girls in wheelchairs took place in Moscow, Russia. The challenge was to win the “Miss Independence – 2017” award. Earlier, a chess competition among the people with disabilities brought contestants from 13 countries to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Sportsmen from Tajikistan won gold, silver and bronze. Currently, there are about 150,000 people with disabilities in Tajikistan. Among them 26,000 are children.