Like the majority of children diagnosed with cerebral palsy in Azerbaijan, Aygun Jafarova has gained her education through home-schooling programmes.
A keen lifelong student, Aygun’s favourite subjects as a child were literature and physics, while later she became more interested in sports and started training as a player of Boccia – a precision ball sport like bowls originally designed for people with cerebral palsy and other athletes with severe disabilities. Her dedication and skills won her medals in a national Boccia competition in 2005.
Aygun later spent six years focused on fulfilling yet another of her ambitions, this time mastering the art of punch needle embroidery. Health issues sadly prevented her from completing the course.
So when a friend told Aygun about the new Inclusive Art School recently opened in Baku, she was keen to take up the opportunity, enrolling in a course in knitting.
“I worked as a volunteer at Formula One racing” says Aygun, “and now I’m a student at this Inclusive Art School. These examples show how people with disabilities have become more accepted by society. In the past, people would point fingers at us in the street. It makes me happy that this is changing.“
The Inclusive Art School was established as part of a wider project for ‘Addressing the Rights and Well-Being of Women with Disabilities and Veterans of the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict’. This project aims to change perceptions and attitudes towards people with disabilities and promote their inclusion in society.
Asli Zeynalabdinova, the Coordinator of the Inclusive Art School, cannot praise Aygun enough for her contributions to the community developing around the School:
“Aygun’s so full of energy and motivation to learn and to communicate!” he says. “She’s one of those rare people who are just completely honest and fair by nature. And though her fine motor skills aren’t strong, she’s learned a lot of complicated knitting techniques and decorating very fast. She’s a real star in the community we’ve built at the School!”
The Inclusive Art School was opened as part of a wider project for ‘Addressing the Rights and Well-Being of Women with Disabilities and Veterans of the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict’, funded by the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of the Population and implemented by UNDP and UNFPA in Azerbaijan. The project was launched at the initiative of the First Vice President of Azerbaijan, Mehriban Aliyeva.
The aim of this project is to help reduce the barriers for people with disabilities who continue to experience challenges caused by the lack of inclusive education and employment opportunities as well as social stigmatization towards disability in the society by encouraging people with disabilities to become self-confident, self-employed and self-sufficient. Beneficiaries of the project inspire other people with and without disabilities by their own examples and through mutual experiences. This continuous process in turn brings about a bigger societal change that makes the world a better place where no one is left behind.