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Fashion Show - Here we come

Published 24th August 2010 - 5 comments - 6271 views -

Fashion show - maybe it sounds banal. However it is an effective tool, which makes person with disabilities happy and self-confident. What is more important it raises awareness about them among the mainstream community. I organised it twice in Tanzania, Morogoro in 2009 and I involved kids from Mehayo centre where I was volunteering. The main inspiration form me was the famous “Miss Landmine”,  the project Miss Landmine Survivor’s Fashion Show and Contest which was for the first time organised in Angola 2007. The exhibition of the young girls who had lost limbs in landmine explosions travelled all over the world. It come to Poland thanks Anna Kudarewska (my interview with her here).

Miss Landmine

More about this unique rasing awarness project here and the website of the photographer Morten Traavik here.

By the way, check up about Miss Landmine contest which was banned in Cambiodia here.

Photo: Roman Stanek,

For our small fashion show (the picture above) we had invited pupils from local schools and prepared a workshop about disability. It was led by Tanzanian special education teacher Salomon. In Tanzania, there is only one place where you can be trained in the field of special education - Arusha. David and Solomon - young teachers have taken this opportunity. Both of them collaborated with Mehayo during my stay in Morogoro. I convinced them that led the workshops.

What did we teach? You can read here.

Workshop „Intellecutal Disability” in MEHAYO, Morogoro

 What is an intellectual disability?

A child with intellectual disability is someone, who learns and developes more slowly than other children. This child is slower in learning to speak and has sometimes trouble with learning or functioning in every day life.

But this doesn't mean, the person cannot learn!! 

A intellectual disability can be smaller or bigger. As an adult, some person can work normal, some if tasks are simple. Some persons with intellectual disabilities can be able to live independently or look after oneself without support from others. If the person may have difficulties speaking and understanding others, he may require constant assistance

 Where does an intellectual disability come from?

An intellectual disability happens, because the brain gets injured or problem causes, that the brain cannot develope normally. This can happen, while the baby is growing inside his or her mother, during baby's birth or after baby is born. Often doctors don't know, when it happend.

Reasons could be:

-         mother gets sickness during pregnancy

-         problem with the childs genes, which are in all cells of body and determine how the body will develope

-         baby doensn't get enough oxygen during childbirth, e.g. because the birth needs to long time

-         after born, baby gets a serious infection (e.g. Malaria)

-         a serious headhurt in life, e.g. an accident with motorbike without helmet

 How many people with people with intellectual disabilities do live in Tanzania?

Approxemately 10%, it means 1 of 10 persons, in Tanzania do have a disability. This includes all disabilities, not only intellectual disabilities, also physical disabilities like hearing impermaint or blind, and other disabilities. About 280.000 people with intellectual disabilities live in Tanzania. There would be much more people with disabilities, but still there are oftern babys killed, who are born with a disability.

 What does it mean to be intellecutal disabled for living in Tanzania?

People with disabilities are viewed as worthy of pity, dependent and as such not an integral part of the community they live. Some parents still perceive children with disabilities as a burden and opt not to send them to school. To be able, to grow up, life an independent life and earn their own money, they need access to education, vocational training, that suits to their skills and interests.

 The educational system in the country does not allow for equal access for children with disabilities.  Almost all school facilities at all levels are inaccessible. As a result of the above children with disabilities enrolled for primary one is less than one percent.

Skills training enable a person with disabilities to work and lead an independent life.  Skills training offered in vocational training centers for people with disabilities is inadequate and do not provide the competence required to enable people with disabilities work independently. Besides the training environment is not adequately accessible.

The majority of people with disabilities in the  country live in poverty because they cannot access work due to their disability and competition in the labour market.

 People with disabilities like other citizens have the right to respect, acceptance, employment and care.  The society in general is insensitive to the needs of disabled persons and have in most part shown negative attitude towards them.

Students in the age of 13-15 have shown great interest in the topic. During the first workshop (held on 4 September 2009) we had 50 students. The second time, there were 40 (22 October 2009). I must admit that the workshops have been a great success. Youth "plucked" to answer, and then danced together with the clients of Mehayo.

We also had a performance of local actors, who prepared the play on the topic of social situation of people with disability.

 And finally the fashion show come.

fashion show

I remember it  even today. Not only for me, but also for local and foreign volunteers. "When Azziza came to the stage I could not stand it any more. I began to cry"- Brian, 27-year-old volunteer from the USA told me after the show. We were crying all. Our children and young people - on a daily basis diry, in torn clothes - stood proudly and happily in a beautiful dress in front of their "non-disabled" peers.

During my visits in the centres from people with disability in Tanzania and Zambia I asked the leaders what is the biggest challenge of their pupils or clients. And every time they answered: "Raising awareness among the public, including public services". I heard about how the parents hide their disabled child, fearing pressure neighbors. To change this should start early. Show them that every man is a part of society, which is subject to the same laws.

When I came back to Poland in November there was an artistic project, you have to see DOWNTOWN. You have to enter to see this amazing website as it was an amazing exhibition made by Oiko Petersen who made photos of people with Down Syndrom. They are really models here. Check it right NOW.

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  • Jana Cavojska on 24th August 2010:

    great, iwona. your work and also your post smile

  • Hanna Clarys on 26th August 2010:

    This is fantastic; making those children feel beautiful too. Who doesn’t think feeling beautiful is important?

  • Iwona Frydryszak on 26th August 2010:

    I have some videos as well, so I hope I will edit it somehow and post as well. It;s really moving.

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