Reaching higher education: Inspirations from women with disabilities

Shabibi Osmonova and her parents / UNDP Turkmenistan

About 3000 persons with disabilities around Turkmenistan pave their ways to education and employment. For many it is a dream that seems to be unachievable. This is due to a number of reasons. One – low self-esteem; two – absence of the inclusive education at schools; three – social stigma that exists among children and teenagers and then transforms into an adult life. As a result, there is only a small number of disabled who are able to overcome the stigma and create opportunities to develop.


  • Within UNDP-supported project, over fifty women with disabilities participated in a special 20-day course to promote social inclusion and greater engagement of people with disabilities in policy-making.
  • The change in the mindset has started. Women established their own businesses and mobilized women to pursue various activities.
  • The project was funded by the United Nations Democracy Fund.

Shabibi Osmanova, with visual disability since her birth breaks the stereotypes and fights social stigma. Shabibi recently became a full time student at the Belarusian State Pedagogical University named after Maksim Tanka and completed the first semester of schooling. She studies at the department of physical training for people with visual impairments. Shabibi dreams of becoming a teacher for children who just like her attend special lyceum in Turkmenistan for children with visual impairments and blindness. Shabibi says it was always her dream to help school children to learn how to read and write and feel that they are living.

“I understand persons with visual impairments very well. I can see some, but sometimes because of the blood pressure I cannot see at all. I love children and would like to help them,” says Shabibi.

Shabibi is one of the beneficiaries of the joint project of the United National Development Program (UNDP) and the Deaf and Blind Society of Turkmenistan (DBS) on “Advancement of Social Inclusion and Integration of Persons with Disabilities”. Shabibi was one of 55 women who undertook leadership skills training and took her own initiative, funded by UNDEF.

In the framework of the training, Shabibi together with 6 other participants went to Belarus for experience exchange. During this study visit, Shabibi took a chance and applied for the university in Belarus. She was admitted to the commercial department and with support of her parents will start her education in September 2015.

“Teachers treat children differently. Just like a regular school there are those who are teacher’s favorites and those who are the outcasts. It happens that those who are favorites receive more attention and as a result better marks. I want to show that all children can achieve high marks and that everyone can study well,” shares Shabibi.

Before the project and entering the university, Shabibi worked as a chairwoman of the youth organization of the DBS. She also worked at the metal factory of the DBS that employs roughly 500 people with disabilities. The project inspired Shabibi by introducing her to the members of the parliament and representatives of the public associations. Today, this young woman is a role model herself, as she is moving towards achieving her goal and the dream of many other people with disabilities.

“We are very proud of our participant. Shabibi has a wonderful personality and she will definitely make a big contribution upon her return from studies. She has tremendous plans and we are sure she will succeed because Shabibi is a very determined and goal oriented. She is optimistic and not afraid to take a lead,” shares UNDP project assistant Aygul Mametnazarova.

Currently UNDP, the Deaf and Blind Society of Turkmenistan, the Ministry of Textile Industry, the Ministry of Education, and the Parliament of Turkmenistan promote inclusive education among the disabled. 

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