“Abilities are limitless”: children with and without disabilities get behind the camera during a photo workshop in BakuBAKU, September 2013 - During a five-day workshop called “Abilities are limitless” which was jointly organized by UNICEF and the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Azerbaijan, eighteen boys and girls aged 11–18 years, some of them with disabilities, learned the basic concepts of photography and practiced how to use the camera for expressing their views through images.
UNICEF Azerbaijan / 2013
Famous UNICEF photographer Giacomo Pirozzi shared his knowledge with them and motivated the young people to tell their stories through the use of cameras. “The main goal of these workshops is to promote the right of boys and girls to express their views freely, without discrimination of any kind. Through this initiative, children from different corners of the globe are given the opportunity to introduce their communities, however small or remote, to the world,” says Pirozzi.
“The images made by children are full of life and full of hope. But they also tell some sad stories. Each image contains a message and invites reflection,” he says. The 18 children, accompanied by youth volunteers spent five days in a Youth centre in Baku, not only learning how to use a camera, but also learning about life and how to make friends through photography.
“Looking through a photographic lens makes us see things that we otherwise do not notice,” says 17-year old Soltan. When time came to practice, children took photos of everything and everybody that came across.” All bonded closely so nobody is left out, they discuss and chose themes for the photo shoot the next day. Although they are surrounded by the beautiful city scenery, the chosen themes instead highlight issues that they feel strongly about in their communities,” says Pirozzi.
The photographs break barriers; even the youngest children feel confident to explain why they like a particular photograph or their reasons for taking it as they write their captions to accompany the images.
UNICEF Azerbaijan / 2013
“I learned a lot about photography and about difficult conditions under which some people live,” says 12-year old Christina. In an awards ceremony the children voted for the best photographer and the best group work as well as the funniest and the most moving photograph. Each child received a certificate to commemorate their participation in the workshop. “The children are having fun but at the same time they show their appreciation of each other’s photographs,” says Pirozzi. “Although five special days together have ended, sadness is mixed with a feeling of joy. They say they are determined to continue to tell their stories through photography.”
The photos taken by children will be displayed at a special exhibition to be organized by the Ministry of Youth and Sports and UNICEF during International Festival on Disability to be held in Baku,September 11-15.
The workshop is part of UNICEF’s efforts to promote rights and address the de facto discrimination of children with disabilities.
“Azerbaijan was one of the first countries in the region to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability, and UNICEF is encouraged to see the work now starting in Azerbaijan so all children can grow up without discrimination, regardless of whether or not they have disabilities, and can have equal opportunities throughout their lives,” says Mark Hereward, UNICEF Representative in Azerbaijan.
In the past, the overwhelming policy approach in the region has been to place children with disabilities in institution. However, five decades of research that show children in institutions will not develop in the same way as children living in families. Quality early child development requires frequent one-to-one interactions with a care-giver. That is why across the region, efforts are now underway to change the policies and service provision to allow children to stay at home. Yet so far, few mainstream schools in the region offer additional support such as therapy for these children to keep up with their classmates without disabilities, an important element of inclusive education. And children with disability must be welcomed into school by their fellow-students and their teachers, in order to benefit from educational opportunities.
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