2012 Paralympics – Inspiring people with disabilities worldwide
Over the past few weeks, there have been some inspiring examples of success in disabled sport at the Paralympics in London. The athletes have represented their countries with courage and determination, and this has also helped to raise awareness of the difficulties that disabled people all over the world face.
For people with disabilities in developing countries; life is particularly difficult. The link between disability and poverty has been clearly established, and as many as 80% of all disabled people live in isolated, rural areas in developing countries. To make matters worse, people with disabilities often live in areas where medical and other related services are scarce, or even totally absent, and where disabilities are often not detected in time.
The European Commission is working in developing and partner countries to do what we can to help give disabled people a voice and equal rights in society. Take, for example, the story of Rayhongul, a disabled girl from the Tudakavsh village of Kulob Jamoat in Tajikistan who was affected by poliomyelitis. From an early age, Rayhongul expressed a determination to study and from childhood, wanted to enter the faculty of foreign languages and eventually become an English language teacher.
Rayhongul's parents overcame their doubts on whether she could enter university as a disabled student when they took part in a Parent Support Group meeting (part of an EU project to improve the inclusion of children with disabilities in Tajikistan) and got advice and support from a legislative expert of the Ministry of Education. Rayhongul is a student now. She is progressing well and is now planning to graduate from university and become the English teacher of her village. She says that she wants to set an example for the rest of the girls of the village to get an education and use the advantages that come with it.
Hearing from people like Rayhongul reminds us how important our support to civil society groups in areas like this can be. This project alone reached some 48,500 people and 4,900 children with disabilities benefited from improved access to quality government and social services as a result. 90 parent support groups were established and crucially, there was an 80% increase in the number of children with disabilities who engaged in activities in public venues like schools, parks and recreation centres.
Projects like this are crucial, but for every girl like Rayhongul, there are countless others who don't have the chances in life that they deserve. Let's hope that thanks to the Paralympics, disabled rights will move up the political agenda, and we'll see more and more support to help to improve disabled people rights in some of the world's poorest countries.