Everyday champions for children with disabilities unite to reshape hearts and minds in Georgia

Challenging Stigma Against Disabilities

Lia Tabatadze, active member of the ‘See Every Colour’ campaign

03 September 2018

TBILISI, May 2017 – “People have definitely started to talk more about children with disabilities, and the media has shown a great deal of interest in covering the topic,” said Lia Tabatadze, the mother of a 7 year-old girl with Down Syndrome, and the founder of Babale, a local NGO that helps children with disabilities integrate into society and lead more independent lives. 

Tabatadze and her NGO have joined the high visibility campaign ‘See Every Colour’, which aims to raise awareness and educate people about the needs of children with disabilities and the importance of their full inclusion within society.

Launched in February 2017, the campaign is gaining pace and has already attracted major recognition country-wide. Video and photo stories showcasing the talents of children and young people with disabilities in sports, arts ,and education have spread across social media, complementing other awareness-raising events in the capital and throughout Georgia. 

Gigo Shiukashvili, a charismatic 21 year-old with Down Syndrome, was thrilled to hear about the new campaign, and is trying to participate in as many events as he can.

Gigo Shiukashvili, a charismatic 21 year-old with Down Syndrome, was thrilled to hear about the new campaign, and is trying to participate in as many events as he can.

“I think this campaign should continue for as long as possible. But one of the main reasons I love it so much is because of the cool concerts,” he says, referring to a performance of the paraorchestra, a musical ensemble for musicians with disabilities, at one of the recent events he attended. 

When Mari Korkotadze, a Georgian mother with a child with autism, heard about the ‘See Every Colour’ campaign, she got involved immediately. “I was approaching the media for many years without success, asking them to produce a story about my son to help the public better understand children with disabilities. Finally, when UNICEF launched this campaign, they helped me make the video and tell his story,” she said. 

Turning to social media shortly afterwards, she began posting information about the campaign on her Facebook page. “I have many friends on Facebook and the majority of them do not interact with children with disabilities. Now people are starting to understand them better. We are showing the public that people with disabilities are just like everyone else, but with different skills and abilities,” she explained.

#SeeEveryColour Campaign Launch in Kutaisi, Georgia, May 2017
#SeeEveryColour Campaign Launch in Kutaisi, Georgia, May 2017

The ‘peer journeys’ component of the campaign is an innovative way to bring people without disabilities closer to children and young people with disabilities, helping them better understand the personal, social and professional development needs of people with disabilities. Sandro Batsanadze, a 21 year-old university student, accompanied Giorgi, a young person with disability, on a trip to the mall to purchase a backpack. In return, Giorgi taught Batsanadze how to cook his favorite soup. 

“After my time with Giorgi, I learned so much. He helped me see things I was not aware of before. I also learned to recognize my own prejudices towards people with disabilities,” he noted.

Sandro feels that the ‘See Every Colour’ campaign is an important initiative, and he encourages more young people to take part in ‘peer journeys’. “People fear the things they are unfamiliar with, and this is a great way to get rid of that fear,” he says.  

Though launched three months ago, the campaign has already reached around 800,000 people via a number of media platforms. The development of peer journey videos, podcasts, comic strips, and educational brochures, as well as a variety of other exciting events and concerts are planned throughout eight regions of Georgia as the campaign gathers speed.