Lyazzat Kaltayeva: “There should be no barriers in our society”

Lyazzat Kaltayeva is a winner of the prize of fighters for the rights of people with disabilities

Ahead of the International Day of Disabled Persons (3 December) Lyazzat Kaltayeva, a leader of the NGO supporting the rights of people with disabilities, was awarded at the Asia Pacific Award of fighters for the rights of people with disabilities.


  • More than a half a million people with disabilities live in Kazakhstan (estimate 2012.) About half of them are women who tend to have the burden of double discrimination on grounds of disability and gender. In 2008, Kazakhstan signed the international Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Now Convention is in the process of ratification.
  • The International Day of Disabled Persons was proclaimed on December 3 in 1992, by the United Nations General Assembly. This day is designed to promote a better understanding of disability-related issues, the rights of persons with disabilities and realization what benefits people with disabilities can be engaged to participate in a variety of areas of political, social, economic and cultural life of their communities.

During the intergovernmental meeting Socio-Economic Commission in the Asia-Pacific (UNESCAP) and the Government of the Republic of Korea introduced ten outstanding disability rights activists.

The winners were chosen by an international jury for the multi-dimensional impact of their activities, mobilizing broad support and their capacity to act as an example for others.

Lyazzat was recognized for achievements and leadership in the field of the rights of women with disabilities.

We interviewed Lyazzat to learn how she started to work in that direction, and what progress has been made.

- How did you react to this award?

- Of course, this award was surprise for us. However, we recognize that during decade of 2003-2012, our network did a lot. Since 1992, in the space of the Asian countries, there were big changes, but Kazakhstan didn’t take part in them practically. This was mainly because we didn’t have access to international platforms; moreover, our region does not speak English. In 2001, on the initiative of 10 women with disorders of the musculoskeletal functions we created the organization "Association of Women with Disabilities “Shyrak." Our work has given a new impulse to the promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities, and we are honored to receive this award.

- How did you decide to start your organization?

- Since the age of 16 I started working in various movements for human rights of the people with disabilities. But they were rather a transit point for humanitarian assistance to people with disabilities than functioning organizations. So I left these movements, and for a long time I had been sitting at home, from time to time initiating meetings with friends who are at the same situation as me. Somewhere in 2000 international experts from Finland visited us with a seminar on the rights of people with disabilities. For me it was a revelation, my eyes opened.  I saw with what dignity people with disabilities can live and work. The next year we went to Finland ourselves, and we saw in what conditions and how people lived with disabilities there. We saw self-sufficient women living a full life, women, who have all the opportunities to have fun, implement and develop themselves. For us it was the impetus in understanding who we are. We went back in October and in December we already registered our own organization. Thus our story began.

-  What are your main achievements?

- First, we have changed the understanding of problems. Before people with disabilities were treated like someone who should be fed, dressed, and be provided with medical services. Associations themselves concentrated on asking for money and help. We understood that there was another perspective - legal. It is based on the idea that a person with disabilities is a full member of the society. There should be barriers for him in this society. His position should not depend on the attitude of officials or doctors, it must be fundamentally fixed. If he has to go somewhere, he doesn’t have to call and ask someone about it, trying to gain a car or person for help.  He just should go.

Second, we started to talk about the rights of women with disabilities. Earlier we had mainly neutral and asexual approach for disability. Such topics as a health care for women, the violence, and the right for employment were closed for discussing. We started to raise this issue for the government and communities, and we sought to achieve our rights.

Finally, we have created a network, first it was a national network, and in 2004 - an international network of experts and leaders of organizations of women with disabilities in Central Asia. This network opened a window into the international community. People outside of Central Asia learned about us. We have become so connecting bridge to the rest of the world. UNESCAP interested in us, and since we have conducted a number of joint initiatives, various studies, we have provided their findings to the government and attended international trainings.

There is also a separate merit of the Government of Kazakhstan and UNDP. With their support, we entered the Coordinating Council for Human Rights of the Government. We have an opportunity to participate in high-dialogue platforms, for example, last year I participated in cross-country meetings in Ashgabat on disability issues, UNDP Regional Centre in Bratislava involved our organization in developing a regional plan of action on the rights of people with disabilities.

This helps us build capacities, adopt the best practices and see good prospects in the future. Moreover, the Government of Kazakhstan with the support of UNDP draws us to events that are not directly related to disability issues. For example, we are involved in all consultations on gender issues. We also participated in the development of recommendations on the Millennium Development Goals. That is, it gives us a great framework, our opinions and ideas are considered not only to promote the rights of people with disabilities, but in general, to the development issues. I think this is the first indication that we are really becoming full members of society, and our joint work has real results.

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