It is a great pleasure for me to introduce to you and tell you all about a wonderful organization called SiDa. They are a parent support group for parents of children with Down Syndrome in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. As you may know, some percentage of the profits of Salomat Ikat go to this amazing organization.
First of all, what is Down Syndrome?
Down Syndrome (or Trisomy 21) is a naturally occurring chromosomal arrangement that has always been a part of the human condition. It is universally present across racial, gender and socioeconomic lines, and affects approximately 1 in 800 live births. Down Syndrome usually causes varying degrees of intellectual and physical disability and associated medical issues.
So, how did I meet SiDa?
Whilst living in London I met a lady who works for the UK Down Syndrome Association who told us that she had just came back from Tajikistan and had supported this wonderful group of parents who have children with Down Syndrome in Tajikistan. I was delighted to hear that somebody was doing something about people with special needs in my own country and I felt very proud. I was so excited that I contacted SiDa immediately to offer any help I could, and also just to get to know about their work, challenges and their children.
Beautiful girl in Ikat traditional Tajik dress admiring amazing dress for big girls.
About a year ago a job took me back to Dushanbe for a year. One of the first things I did was to arrange a meeting with the members of this lovely organization. I was so excited to see their children as well. Growing up in the Northern part of Tajikistan I saw a person with Down Syndrome in public just once, but then he disappeared from our neighbourhood and I didn’t see him again. Unfortunately, you do not see people with special needs and disability in the streets of Tajikistan very often. That doesn’t mean that people and children with disabilities do not exist, of course they do, but they often remain within their families, behind closed doors. Or some are rejected by families and sent to ‘special’ boarding schools (something like an orphanage).
Thus, I was so excited to see Tajik children with DS and their parents who happen to be all Mothers who believe in them, want to learn about them and support their children as much as they can and, yes, the most important thing is that they ACCEPT them as they are!
I met with SiDa and met their lovely and beautiful children. Since then I have been happy to support them in anyway I could.
Popular pop-star of Tajikistan Parvina Shukurullaeva and lovely children.
One big question might pop-up probably by most readers of this blog and followers of Salomat Ikat: ‘Why Down Syndrome?’ why not any other disability group or cause? The reason is simple - because we have somebody dear and close to us who also happens to have Down Syndrome.
The challenges this group faces are massive as you can imagine. The stereotypes and, I would say, lack of knowledge or misinformation about the abilities of people with Down Syndrome, and other disabilities, is prevalent in Tajikistan. This parent group works on a number of issues including the inclusion of children with DS into primary schools. This group is pioneering in all the things they do for DS, and I witnessed one of their great victories when they succeeded in setting up a classroom for children with Down Syndrome in one of the mainstream schools in Dushanbe. This was the first time they had children with DS going to mainstream schools. It was truly breathtaking to witness this change in Tajikistan! I just kept telling them ‘do you know what you just have achieved?’ – they don’t realize how much impact they have on people of Tajikistan and children!They have big plans for the future working with Ministry of Health of the RT and Ministry of Education of the RT and I look forward to hearing of further successes.
What a handsome young man :) On the background Khurshed Sattorov Tajik fashion designer.
Every year on Down Syndrome Day (21st of March) SiDa conducts awareness-raising campaigns among Tajik community, and a couple years ago a very famous Tajik designer called Khurshed Sattorov gave this wonderful present of joy to children with Down Syndrome by having a show where the models were as well young girls with Down Syndrome wearing gorgeous clothing and being taught how to walk the catwalk. Parents were telling me with tears of happiness in their eyes how much their daughters enjoyed being pampered and feeling and looking beautiful. SiDa kindly shared with me the pictures of that lovely day. By looking at these pictures you can just feel the positive spirit and beauty of this kind act of Khurshed Sattorov.
A man with big kind heart Khurshed Sattorov - popular Tajik fashion designer making this beautiful girl feel and look amazing.
Two beautiful sisters on the catwalk of famous Tajik fashion designer Khurshed Sattorov. Just look at the eyes and face of these beautiful girls which radiate happiness and acceptance.
I will be writing more about SiDa and their amazing work across Tajikistan in my coming blogs. By buying the products of Salomat Ikat you contribute to this wonderful organisation which is bringing positive changes into the lives of children with Down Syndrome and their parents and wider society in Tajikistan!