ISLAMABAD: Disabled people must be an equal part of a style-conscious world. So let’s put on our gladrags and join the party.
Under this slogan, people with disabilities showcased their talent alongside contemporary models in a unique cultural fashion show at the National Library on Thursday.
A cheerful young girl on a wheelchair, dressed in a brinjal-coloured hand-stitched dress, inaugurated the show. She was later joined by a male model who walked the ramp alongside his co-host.
The models appeared on stage in twos, with one of each being physically disabled, and won great applause from the audience as they walked down the ramp confidently.
The show, titled “Missing Models of Pakistan”, was jointly organised by Special Talent Exchange Program (STEP), Monthly Pakistan Special, International Labour Organisation, Directorate General of Special Education, Shahzads and Embers Designs.
“It was my first experience and given my disability I was nervous to face such a large crowd. But the encouragement I got from them put me at ease,” said Naseema, looking fabulous in a red and white dress. She suffered from polio when she was one and a half years old; she presently works as a receptionist at the Family Health Hospital.
Shabab, 21, a student of B.Com said he loves to dress up but is often criticised by people for wearing western clothes. He said that due to his large sized foot, he can only wear tailor-made trousers. “But today I wore western clothes and the appreciation from the audience really built my confidence,” he said. Shabab too became a victim of polio when he was just one.
Asfandyar, a physically challenged student of ACCA, said the cultural fashion show conveyed a message to the society that though we have a different way of moving about, we are not different from other normal human beings. “We have the sense of dressing and looking good and have an ability to showcase it on stage.”
Talking to The Express Tribune, STEP President Atif Sheikh said such a cultural fashion show a first for Pakistan. The purpose behind the show was to give the concept that a person sitting on wheelchair or having a white can on his hand has an equal right to look beautiful. He said special persons are rendering services in different fields and they want an inclusive society in which they can enjoy an independent life.
The US ambassador’s wife, Dr Marilyn Wyatt, said the participants impressed her with their confidence and performance. She said she has personal interest in disability rights, being the mother, sister, and sister-in-law of persons with disabilities.
“Today they have proved that they are powerful, unique, inspiring, beautiful, handsome and most of all confident,” she said.
She added that such people are unique, powerful and impressive and expressed hope that the recently ratified United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) will open new doors for them.
Special Education Director General Mustafain Qazmi said that under UNCRPD, his department is focussing on reforming current laws and regulations so that they are more inclusive of persons with disabilities. He said in the war against terrorism, a large number of people were left disabled. He said the government is working on their welfare but they need collaboration of all the stakeholders, including the civil society, philanthropists, private sector, non-government organisations and UN agencies.
He said that in last Special Olympics held in Athens, Pakistanis won 57 medals. “They have always proved themselves to be capable and have proved their mettle in every field.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2011.