Extraordinary and talented women worldwide are forging change. At Special Olympics Asia Pacific, we are surrounded by women of grit who smash stereotypes and break biases every day to lead, motivate and bring about much needed change.
Meet these exceptional women who have been advocating for change, to create a more accepting and inclusive world for all.
Aliyah Hidayah – Taking what I need to be the woman I want to be
Aliyah wears many hats: enterprising student, active volunteer, and youth advocate.
Currently completing her diploma in common engineering, Aliyah has been actively engaged with Special Olympics Singapore since 2015 when she was introduced to the Badminton Outreach Program and Young Athletes Program.
When she realised the low level of societal awareness of the struggles faced by people with intellectual disabilities, Aliyah was determined to do her part to help end discrimination towards people with intellectual disabilities.
Aliyah has not always been this confident and outspoken, in fact, she never thought she could be a leader. “The athletes of Special Olympics have helped me find my voice, my confidence, and my leadership abilities. The fortitude and joy I’ve experienced have been indescribable. I have become a better player, better leader, better person, and I pledge to do all I can to end injustice, and to do my part to provide more opportunities for people with disabilities to shine in all aspects of their lives.”
Navjot & Rekha – Making a difference
Meet Navjot and Rekha, special educators in India who volunteer with the Special Olympics Young Athletes program – an early intervention sport and play program for children with and without intellectual disabilities.
Over the past 6 years, they have travelled across Punjab, going door to door to reach out to countless parents to stress the importance of keeping children engaged in sport and play.
Their inspiring stories of watching children with intellectual disabilities not just progress, but blossom with confidence sends a clear message, “Do not hide your special children. Be proud of them, not ashamed.”
Although they have had people turn them away, or households asking them for money in exchange for their children attending their program, they refuse to give up. “People ask us, why we choose to do what we do. Our answer is simple: Every child deserves a chance and a head start in life, no matter their ability.”
Jasmine Sharif – Everyone deserves dignity and respect
Jasmine Sharif is an athlete with Sotos Syndrome. She has been advocating for the rights of people with intellectual disabilities in her home country of Pakistan, as well as globally.
Her journey with Special Olympics began as a swimmer, competing at the Special Olympics World Games held in China and the Regional Asia Pacific Games in Australia. Most recently, she competed in the 2019 World Games held in Abu Dhabi, where she won a bronze medal for swimming.
Leading by example, she now guides other athletes as an assistant coach in Special Olympics Pakistan. She travels the world, speaking about the importance of inclusion. She strives to constantly improve herself by learning new skills beyond sports, earning herself a qualification in graphic design.
She says, “Having a disability is like having superpowers. Enjoy your superpowers! If people don’t understand and make fun of you, just smile and walk away.”
Here’s to strong women, may we be them, raise them and know them. Together, there are no limits to what we can accomplish. Human Race applauds these extraordinary women who have imagined a brighter and kinder future for all of us!