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UNICEF, Special Olympics and eastern Kazakh city set to integrate children with special needs into society and reduce stigma

© UNICEF KZ / 2008
Medical students consulting a child with special needs.

SEMEY, Kazakhstan - 24 October 2008

The Akimat (administration) of Semey city together with the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Special Olympics Kazakhstan have come up with the initiative to integrate children with intellectual disabilities into society and to reduce stigma and discrimination against them. The initiative is being put forward as part of the project "The human capacity empowerment on the territory of the former nuclear testing site of Semey".

"Children with special needs are not fully integrated into society and many of them even face stigma and discrimination," said UNICEF Representative in Kazakhstan Hanaa Singer at a news conference on 24 October in the city of Semey (East Kazakhstan Region). "We believe that involving them in sports will further help them to get integrated into society, develop their intellectual and physical skills. This will also help society change their attitude towards children with intellectual disabilities. That is why we are launching today the initiative together with Special Olympics and the administration of Semey on social rehabilitation and protection of the rights of children with special needs, including children with intellectual disabilities," Ms Singer said.

A global partnership to advance the rights of children with intellectual disabilities between UNICEF and Special Olympics International commenced in 2007 on the occasion of the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai, China, and continued with a series of events in Bulgaria, Cambodia, China, El Salvador, Jamaica, Panama and Uzbekistan. This partnership promotes the participation and empowerment of children with intellectual disabilities and their families in their societies, including through sports, and will seek to build their self-reliance, confidence and advocacy skills.

The discrimination experienced by many children with disabilities means that they are less likely to have access to education than other children. It may also undermine their self-esteem and their interaction with others, and make them more vulnerable to violence, abuse and exploitation. Working together, the two organizations will advocate for health care, education, recreational sports and employment policies that will benefit children with intellectual disabilities.

As part this joint effort, Special Olympics Kazakhstan, the Semey city administration and UNICEF in Kazakhstan are holding a workshop on Healthy Athlete FUNfitness Programme. On 23-24 October specialists of Special Olympics Evgeniy Grapov and Valentina Mayevskaya will conduct a seminar "Healthy athletes - FUNfitness", at which they will be teaching the students of the Semey State Medical University and State Pedagogical Institute on how to counsel athletes according to FUNfitness, which is important part of Special Olympics.

© UNICEF KZ / 2008
UNICEF Project Coordinator Anna Stativkina, UNICEF Child Development and Protection Officer Tatiana Aderikhina, UNICEF Representative Hanaa Singer and Special Olympic Trainer Evgeniy Garpov (from left to right)

In turn, the trained students together with the trainers will talk to children with special needs. It is planned to involve about 80 children, where professional guidance will be given on proper development, attraction of children and their parents to exercises and sports events at local and national levels. In Kazakhstan similar workshop was held in July 2008 in Almaty, at which 100 athletes received advice and best options for sports.

“This joint initiative is Kazakhstan’s step towards its ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which will help the country to counter stigma and discrimination of disabled persons as well as solve a broad range of issues that these people face today in the country,” Ms Singer told the news conference.

The FUNfitness programme was developed in 2000 in the USA and launched at the 2001 Special Olympics World Winter Games.  Special Olympics FUNfitness is a fitness counseling designed to identify athletes’ needs; help athletes  improve flexibility, strength, balance, and aerobic condition; educate participants, families and coaches about the importance of flexibility, strength, balance, and aerobic condition in overall fitness; provide a hands-on opportunity for participants to learn appropriate exercises from physical therapy professionals. It has been hosted in 45 countries.

Medical workers will be given the unique opportunity to join Special Olympics and to get special training and begin the screening of athletes. Students will have the chance to extend their knowledge about working with children with intellectual disabilities, their socialization and further inclusion into society. 

For more information please contact:

UNICEF Kazakhstan
Zhazira Zhumash, tel +7(7172) 32 28 78 ext. 112
Sultan Khudaibergenov, tel: +7(7172) 32 28 78 ext. 112



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