Girls in Azerbaijan battle disability stigma with sports
ABSHERON, Azerbaijan – Fourteen-year-old Maryam stood, awe-struck, at the edge of an indoor football pitch in Absheron, Azerbaijan. “For me, seeing a real soccer pitch, a real goal net, and putting on a real soccer jersey has been utterly shocking,” she said.
Life is often isolating for young people like Maryam, who is living with Autism. In Azerbaijan, nearly half of youth with disabilities are educated at home, away from their peers, according to a 2010 survey.
And girls living with disabilities often have fewer opportunities to engage with the broader world than boys. In the first year of a national pilot project to promote inclusive education, only five of 20 participants were girls.
In April, UNFPA began working with the Special Olympics to create opportunities for adolescent girls to play and learn. The project will provide sports activities for both girls with disabilities and those without. The participants will also learn about their reproductive health and their human rights.