Within the Jamat, there is a significant number of people that live with some form of disability, including physical impairment, sensory impairment, cognitive impairment, intellectual impairment, and mental illness. Like everyone, this group of individuals have their own uniqueness, which needs to be understood and embraced. It can be done in an environment that promotes equality, inclusiveness, and mutual respect, free from prejudice.
“Diversity is not a reason to put up walls, but rather to open windows. It is not a burden, it is a blessing.”
Mawlana Hazar Imam, Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship, 21 September 2016, Global Centre for Pluralism, Toronto, Canada.
In commemoration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, annually observed on 3 December, the Jamati Special Needs Committee in Kenya organised a unique panel of local experts to engage with the Jamat about various forms of special needs, particularly focusing on mental health, development disorders, learning and visual difficulties, as well as community counselling services available. The speakers provided information on identification of special needs, what support is available, and examples of successful individuals living with disabilities.
This knowledgeable and experienced panel, representing diverse backgrounds and perspectives, included Ms. Tasreen Keshavjee, a psychotherapist; Ms. Tasneem Tayeb, a professional counsellor; Dr. Alliyah Mohamed, a consultant pediatrician with a subspecialty in developmental pediatrics; Ms. Zahra Rashid, an optometrist specialising in pediatrics and low vision; and Ms. Donica Merhazion a learning support teacher.
The session commenced with a delightful poem titled, “I’m Glad To Be Me” presented by a group of Ismaili youth. This was followed by captivating presentations by each expert and a Q&A session. This interactive session provided a great opportunity to learn together and from one another. It re-emphasised that those with mental or physical challenges can prosper in an enabling environment fostered by compassion, understanding, acceptance, and support.
It was an enlightening experience for those that attended and the first of many events that the committee will be organizing to create awareness and enhance the acceptance and engagement of people with disabilities within and beyond the Jamat.
Some of the comments received from participants at the event included:
“A very meaningful event. Also happy to observe young professionals deliver so well. The choice of cross-subjects was very well done as it gave a complementary awareness.”
“It was very informative and your speakers were excellent. Wonderful session- I learnt so many new things.”
Source: The Ismaili