My birthday wish: I want you to come together with us!

From: Rijad Mehmeti

Leonora Aliu
Wheel Chair campaign in Kosovo in 2020
UNICEF/2020
01 June 2021

Prishtina, 1 June 2021 - May is a special month for me. This month marks my birthday. Festive atmosphere prevails at my home! On 28th of May this year, i.e. three days ago, I turned 17. These years have not been easy for me. My parents remember the day of my birth as their happiest day in their lives and it has not been easy for them to take care of me. Long sleepless nights, extra care to not hurt me because I was born with cerebral palsy and their worries and fears about my future, how the society will receive me on the first day of school and many, many other things. I know, it is not easy. Thanks to their dedication and my friends, today I can celebrate my 17th birthday with my friends. I can attend school along with my friends and they have no reason to be feared for my future.

On 28th of May this year I met my friends at the Square “Skënderbeu” in Prishtina, among the few public spaces where I can easily access with my wheelchair! I had a great time, but I also felt bad. In addition to the fact that a year of my life past by and I grew up for one year, which is a good thing, it has been a year since I addressed such a letter, showing that me and my friends with disabilities stand here together with you and we need you.

Rijad Mehmeti (UNICEF advocate) with President of Kosovo Vjosa Osmani during Wheel Chair exhibition in 2020
UNICEF/2020
Rijad Mehmeti (UNICEF advocate) with President of Kosovo Vjosa Osmani during Wheel Chair exhibition in 2020

It has been a year since I spoke about the fear of living as a person with disabilities, lack of access to public spaces and institutions, lack of services for us, and above all the fact that many of my friends with disabilities do not attend school. It has been a year since we positioned 120 wheelchairs in the square where I was celebrating my birthday as a call for 120 members of parliaments to listen to our requests and act. It has been a year since political leaders symbolically joined the call we made along with UNICEF-Kosovo. It has been a year since I addressed through the television screen the population of Kosovo from the lobby of the democracy in the country, which, however, is not accessible to the persons with disabilities. I grew up for one year, but me and my friends are still waiting for someone to take us to school! This fact came to my mind throughout my birthday, the day when in fact I should not worry, but celebrate.

“What is your birthday wish?” – my friends and parents are asking me.

A young man, and especially one like me, has many desires. But, how can I think only for myself when I celebrate and many of my friends cannot. I have the support of my family, friends, community, but many of my friends do not have!

I cannot have any other wish for this birthday than that I have now and I have had since I publicly addressed all of you – equality! This is my only wish: equality and advanced rights for children with disabilities, in order to ensure that others, just like me, enjoy a pleasant family environment, welfare and health, education and training for the future, but above all, and most importantly, a more dignified life. I cannot wish for anything else until these wishes come true. I cannot think only of myself when I know my friends need me.

Can we all come together to make Kosovo a better place for children with disabilities!

Your friend, Rijadi