Making basketball everyone’s game in Nepal
High degrees of vulnerability are deeply entrenched in Nepali society and, among the diverse groups facing daily discrimination and lack of opportunities, are those citizens of the country living with disabilities. Nevertheless, sport is today serving as a platform to promote a more inclusive society and the social cement that binds citizens into a more unified whole.
In Nepal like in many others developing societies, people living in remote areas or persons with disabilities face mountains of barriers and overall there is no a level playing field within the society for them to find meaningful pathways of personal success and prosperity. After years of lobbying and advocacy a new legislation has been enacted, the Disability Rights Act, a major piece of legislation that finally aligns Nepal with Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Act is a “game-changer” that potentially also enshrines rights to sport, education, health and participation to public life.
The right to sports that have been included makes Nepal one of the most progressive nations in terms of promotion of inclusive sports for persons with disabilities. That’s why the 3rd Edition of the Turkish Airlines ENGAGE Empowering League, organized by the organization ENGAGE, set to start on June 2nd with seven packed days of competitive wheelchair basketball games to be concluded in a grand finale on June 30th, is being organized.
This year the League will foster awareness about the newly acquired rights of persons with disabilities and excluded group and it will count, for the first time ever, with mixed teams coming from outside capital city with overall nine male teams and five female teams, giving it a truly national dimension.
Key is the fact that the League will not only be about very competitive games but also about awareness programs reaching out at least 900 students in the course of the next two months. It is also about capacity building on social inclusion and disability rights for forty plus League Volunteers who are making the event possible from all the aspects.
The League is also about partnerships. Turkish Airlines, a champion in the promotion of sports, has set an example of corporate citizenship by literally embracing the cause; The Governance Facility, a program funded by different development partners and the Embassy of Switzerland to Nepal together with many others corporate and civil society are also contributing strategically to help not only financially but also to change the way workplaces are run.
Additionally, the League will run also ads in the major newspapers to make sure that people will realize that change can happen with a sport competition. Slowly their perceptions and ideas on disabilities will be challenged.
As per now, those living in vulnerable situations and discriminated groups, have really hard time to emerge and find venues of meaningful participation to the public life. We need to right the injustices still so strongly rooted in the society and to find new ways for disadvantaged persons, especially youths, to thrive at life.
Sport playing can represent for many a new beginning, the start of an upward life trajectory, filled by personal success stories even if we need to implement the Act holistically, starting from better educational and livelihoods support. With the new Act in place, the country, for the first time in its modern history with a stable government for the next five years and a new federal system in place, is starting moving on the right path in terms of social inclusion.
Social Inclusion and equity will only happen if excluded groups and persons with disabilities have the chances to find employment opportunities. Ultimately it will be up to youths with disabilities to show that their talents can be used not only on a basketball court but to develop the country and make Nepal not only more diverse but also more prosperous. Social and inclusive progress is certainly not a straightforward path but at ENGAGE we are convinced that a mix of interventions, centred on sports playing, can surely help.