Success Stories of Persons with Disabilities in Afghanistan: United Nations Development Programme
United Nations Development Programme
MDG #2: Achieve universal primary education
The innumerable negative effects of war--displacement, trauma, lack of infrastructure and reduced access to health care—have a devastating impact on the development and education of children. It is especially important to recognize the needs of children with disabilities, including the many children who become disabled as a result of war. The United Nations Development Programme contributed these stories from Afghanistan, illustrating the critical importance of educational opportunities to refugee children with disabilities.
Qudsia Zohra Dastgir is 19-years-old. Eight years ago, she lost her right leg in a rocket attack in Kabul. During the time of the Taliban she was not able to attend school but received home education on a variety of subjects, including English and computer skills.
Once she was able to proficiently read, write, and speak English, she began teaching the language to nurses working at the orthopedic center established by the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC). After the collapse of the Taliban, she got a job in the main delegation of the ICRC in Kabul and has been working there ever since. She says she is “dreaming of a day when everywhere in Afghanistan is wheelchair accessible.”
She is currently working part-time and finishing high school. After graduating with a diploma, she plans to study law to “help persons with disabilities enjoy their rights.”
Backtosh Naasrat was born in Panshir province. During the rule of the Taliban government, Backtosh, who is hearing impaired, went to Tajikistan and spent nine years there. While away from his homeland he learned how to read and write in Russian and to communicate through the Russian Sign Language. He also took an interest in learning taekwando and trained in a martial arts academy for four years.
When he returned to Afghanistan, he began learning the Afghan Sign Language and opened up a taekwando club. He has recently started volunteering with the special education unit at the Comprehensive Disabled Afghans’ Program, working with hearing impaired children. Backtosh teaches them taekwando as part of their physical education and encourages their involvement in other sports activities.
Ibrahem is 10 years old and lives in a village that is far away from the city. He has polio and his leg muscles are very weak. When he was younger he could not sit nor walk. He felt very hopeless because of his disability.
When Ibrahem was five years old his parents learned about an organization working for persons with disabilities, offering free rehabilitation services. His parents took him to the center set up by Sandy Gall’s Afghanistan Appeal. At the center, they taught him physiotherapy exercises and once his leg was ready for the proper appliance, they introduced him to an orthopedic workshop and gave him equipment that helps him walk on his own. In the past he relied on his parents and younger brother to carry him. He was often bored and felt helpless.
Today Ibrahem is much more independent and happy. He attends a public school where he has made friends his age and is learning how to read and write. He wants to become a teacher and educate other children with disabilities.
Abdul Ghaffar was born in Kabul in 1977. When he was three years old, he had an accident, which damaged his hearing. He says this altered his life greatly and despite his family’s efforts to cure him, they were not successful.
During the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, Ghafar and his family fled to Pakistan. “I don’t know how to express those horrible days and nights which we spent in Pakistan. While living in Pakistan I faced many problems and often felt like an outsider because of my inability to communicate,” he says.
Ghafar was unable to attend school because instruction in sign language was not available. Eventually, his brother found a school where he could study, but the school was far away and due to economic constraints he could not afford public transportation, so he had to walk long distances everyday.
After graduating, he met a foreigner who for three years taught him how to read and write English. Soon after Ghafar was hired by Serving Emergency Relief and Vocational Enterprise (SERVE), a non-governmental organization working in the disability sector in Kabul and Jalalabad.
“The time I was working with SERVE was when the Taliban was in full power in Afghanistan. I confronted much hardship during the regime of the Taliban. For example I was put into jail because I was accused of having connections with Arabs,” he says.
Since the fall of the Taliban, Ghafar began working with Comprehensive Disabled Afghans’ Programme as an educator for people with hearing impairments. He is also an active member of the Afghan National Association of the Deaf and is working on a committee responsible for developing 2,000 new words in the Afghan Sign Language.
United Nations Development Programme
One United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017 USA
Tel: (212) 906-5000
Fax: (212) 906-5364