Social stigma faced by people with disabilities make them to be seen helpless, incapable of taking care of themselves, being treated differently and as a result excluded from the social life that make them even more vulnerable to the challenges and drawbacks of life.
UN and the public organizations of Turkmenistan with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Sport and Youth Policy joined their efforts and hosted the Inclusive Sport Festival “We are strong, we are equal” that also marked the 30th anniversary of Turkmenistan’s membership to the United Nations. The public organizations included Central Physical and Sports Club of the Disabled of Turkmenistan, Center for Support of the Disabled, Chess Center for the Blind, Society of the Blind and Deaf of Turkmenistan, Agama, Yenme, Recovery and Rehabilitation center.
The event aiming to engage and empower people with disabilities promoted sport activities to be inclusive for everyone so that “no one is left behind.” When sport includes persons with disabilities, it becomes transformative not just for the participants, but also for families, coaches and spectators.
“Inclusion only becomes inclusion when persons with disabilities are not just present but engaged in meaningful ways. Persons with disabilities need to be a part of all inclusion initiatives in and through sport”, stressed Dmitry Shlapachenko, UN Resident Coordinator in Turkmenistan at the opening ceremony of the Inclusive Sport Festival.
Over 150 people with disabilities and members of vulnerable families demonstrated their sport skills through playing football by blind, basketball and volleyball in wheelchairs, table tennis by disabled persons with a musculoskeletal disorder, chess by blind, adaptive alpinism, races and many more.
“Often people with disabilities are excluded from social life. This Sport Festival gives them a chance to demonstrate that they are equal and strong along with the other people, it makes them to be visible and socially integrated.” – said Gulya Chorekliyeva, the head of the public organization Yenme
The Inclusive Sport Festival took place in Ashgabat Olympic Village and brought together the representatives of the UN missions, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Sport and Youth, Diplomatic missions in Turkmenistan, public organizations, private sector, young SDG Ambassadors, volunteers, and the people of Ashgabat.
“Talking about sports, I would like to focus your attention on bodybuilding, which I am interested in. I began to practice bodybuilding in 2007 when my friends encouraged me to go to the gym with them. I was really excited about it and began to practice it. As time passed, I really liked and enjoyed it. Bodybuilding is now my hobby. It helps me to maintain a healthy and active life-style. It gives me energy and a power, which in turn helps me to develop the skills of confidence and self-esteem, break general stereotypes of people with disabilities and show people that we are strong and ambitious individuals of our community, with full potential to make the world inclusive and a better place to live”- said Elchin, the young sportsman.
The event included sports activities such as goal ball, football, basketball, volleyball, table tennis, chess, rock climbing and fun games. Everyone was invited to try the adaptive sports. The guests also enjoyed the music performances of deaf and blind people who demonstrated their singing and dancing skills.
“As a child I was very active, always striving to do as much movement as my peers did, running, playing and doing all kinds of activities. When I was a teenager, I became a volunteer taking part in various active sport events. From then on, nothing changed. I still love to be active and I find it very hard to stay in one place and lead a daily passive routine. As a girl with disability, swimming helps me to stay healthy, active and support my well-being. It helps me to relieve back pains that prevents me from moving easily. Moreover, I do regular exercises to keep my body fit and strong.” – said Aynura Hasanova, a swimmer.
“Sport is my life. I like and practice both swimming and chess. Sport gives me a power to lead a healthy life-style, achieve my goals and priorities and overcome hardships I face in my life. I do sports because I have a great desire to become a paralympic champion so I will be proud of myself and so that people know that people with disabilities are not weak and helpless people as it is commonly perceived, but we are strong and equal.” – said Atayev Kakabay, a swimmer and a chess player.
When we design sport for inclusion we begin to recognize and realize the full potential of sport for all. It is important to note that when we design environments for persons with disabilities, we are often designing for everyone. The framework of sport for inclusion, and not sport for exclusion, is critical to the future of sport, the sustainable development and achieving inclusive society. The power of sport for inclusive environments works to create the vision of a better world for everyone.
Striving to assist the country in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals the United Nations Country Team in Turkmenistan supports the monitoring and implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and other international human rights instruments, as well as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. Recently released “Jakarta Declaration on the Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities, 2023-2032” creates a momentum to continue and accelerate a whole-of-society action to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities. ///UN Turkmenistan, 19 September 2022