The Meirym Inclusive Festival opens new perspective in the life of children with disabilities in Kazakhstan

People with disabilities makeup one-fifth of the 17 million people living in Kazakhstan today, and half of the people with disabilities are women and children. These people often experience isolation and exclusion from mainstream society. The two-year, USAID supported, Empowerment Now! (EN!) project, which was implemented by the Civil Society Development Association – ARGO worked to improve the social and economic conditions for individuals with disabilities in Kazakhstan.

Thanks to EN!, more than one-thousand children with disabilities, from 11 rehabilitation boarding schools in Almaty Kazakhstan participated in the annual inclusive festival, Meyrim. The festival was organized by the EN! sub-grantee organization, The Marat Ospanov Fund.

According to Bakhyt Ospanova, the chairwoman of the Marat Ospanov Fund, the purpose of the festival is to encourage children with disabilities to identify and develop their creative abilities, by participating in talent shows.

Famous Kazakhstani culture and art figures (opera singers, ballet dancers, pop singers and popular youth musicians) were actively involved in the festival, providing art and creativity classes. They became mentors and role models for the young artists.

Tazhibaev Erkhat, a 17-year-old singer and student of a rehabilitation boarding school for the blind and vision impaired won the Meyrim festival talent competition. He says:

“I have a dream to become a professional singer and musician. Meyrim has given me such opportunity. I was also very proud to sing with the winner of the national talent show, “Super Star KZ”, Rinat Maltsaganov. It inspired me and we became good friends.”

Erkat, together with another winner of the Meyrim festival, a 16 year-old girl with cerebral palsy, Alvina Akhmetkazy will soon participate in the international children’s inclusive festival, Under Oreon’s Wings in Kobrin, Belorussia.

Along with the singing and dance competitions, the Meyrim festival also hosted an art exhibition in the Central Republican Museum of Almaty.

The inclusive festival Meyrim is one of Almaty’s biggest cultural events. It was widely covered by mass media, and 400 people attended the final gala-concert. The final event was held in the State Opera and Ballet Theater. In addition, this year the city authorities decided to hold the event annually.