Nothing about us without us: disability rights activists in Kyrgyzstan tell their stories

by Zulfia Chynar-Satimbai, Regional Campaigner for Europe and Central Asia. Illustrations by Zhenya Oliinyk

“Why should my life be dependent on others people’s moods or noble intentions?” Ukei Muratalieva asks angrily.

Ukei, from Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan, has cerebral palsy. She wants to live independently, and is frustrated by the discriminatory practices that remain in her society.

Sunday 3 December is International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Globally one billion people, encompassing all ages, genders and ethnicities, have some form of disability. They want, and are entitled to, the same human rights, on an equal basis, as others. But in many countries around the world, this is a long way off.

One thing countries can do to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights by persons with disabilities is to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

The CRPD, adopted in 2006, is based on the understanding that disability results from the interaction of persons with impairments and the attitudinal and environmental barriers that impede their full and effective participation in society. It provides state parties with clarity and guidance on how they can realize the rights of persons with disabilities in practice.

I spoke to people in Kyrgyzstan, one of few states in the Europe and Central Asia region which has not yet ratified the CRPD, about why ratification is such an important step.

First the local kindergarten refused to take me in and then the primary school.

Ukei Muratalieva

Ukei, who has worked at the Ministry for Labour and Social Development, described how she was initially denied an education, due to a combination of social stigma and lack of inclusive laws.

“First the local kindergarten refused to take me in and then the primary school. But one teacher disagreed with the headmaster and took me in to her class. Still my mother had to sign a paper to absolve the school of all liability for my health and safety.”

But education became the key to Ukei’s independence. In her teens she attended UNICEF seminars which taught her about her rights, and stressed that children with disabilities should enjoy all human rights on an equal basis with other children.   

Ratifying the CRPD would help ensure that children with disabilities enjoy their right to education without discrimination and on the basis of equal opportunity.

Marina Fegele, a local…

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