Voices from Eurasia

Kyrgyzstan: what does it take to make the invisible visible?


And justice for all? Photo: UNDP Kyrgyzstan

A friend in Kyrgyzstan recently told me about the first time she saw a person with disabilities: she had just turned 19 and left the country to study abroad.

Day-to-day life makes it easy to forget the people with disabilities who live among us. There are few accessible ramps in Bishkek.

A recent trip to the northern part of Kyrgyzstan drove this point home even more.

I was in Kara Balta, a remote town populated by fewer than 40,000 inhabitants, and an economy largely dominated by the mining industry.

When I showed up, the main square was filled with a lively crowd who had turned out for an event called “I exist. I know my rights. From heart to heart.”

The atmosphere was jubilant, with balloons flying and children playing everywhere. On stage, besides some ceremonial speeches, the audience was treated to entertaining local dances abundant with color and rhythm.

What really struck me, however, were the spectators.

Joining me were over 500 people with disabilities. I learned that they came from residential institutions, orphanages, rehabilitation centres, and specialized kindergartens across the Chuy region. They seemed to really be enjoying the spectacle. I heard someone in my vicinity ask in surprise:

“Where did you find so many children with disabilities?”

It sounds harsh, but the question has a point: all too often, we live as though these children do not exist. To our community – and the Kyrgyz society at large – they are practically invisible.

They live among us but are locked into homebound lives due to the overwhelming lack of accessible facilities.

It is time to take action

I work to ensure that every member of society has full and fair access to justice. I am thus happy to report that we are now too working towards improving this access to Kyrgyz men, women, and children with disabilities.

As part of the project, we are planning to build access ramps in three court buildings: one in Bishkek and two in Osh.

However, our engagement will go much deeper by also bolstering our advocacy efforts for the ratification and implementation of the UN Convention of the Persons with Disabilities in Kyrgyzstan.

We recently helped to produce and air a promo clip supporting a dialogue to promote ratification of the convention on public television:

Let’s make children and people with disabilities visible!

This will be the first step towards a full enjoyment of their rights just like all other citizens.

What are some ways you are working to ensure visibility for people with disabilities in your country?

Blog post Kyrgyzstan Sustainable development Human rights Poverty reduction and inequality

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