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How One Organization is Turning Disability into a Driving Force

Tens of thousands of Afghans continue to be affected by land mines and conflict. But even tragedy does not have to mean the end for those living with disabilities.

Ahman Shah Aazami’s life changed forever when he was 26 years old. A land mine explosion cost him both of his arms, leaving him feeling dejected and helpless.

“I cannot tell you how scared and disappointed I felt,” says Aazami. “For the longest time I felt that there was nothing I could do; this was my destiny.”

“Don’t ignore our abilities. Society should not look at us as weak people. We say to all those with a disability; do not think that you have lost everything, there is always hope for the future”. Mr. Aazami

But Aazami did not allow himself to sink into a future without possibility and hope. A man of vision and determination, he instead co-founded the Community Center for Disabled (CCD), where he has served for the past ten years as Deputy Director of Programs.

With support from Counterpart International’s Initiative to Promote Afghan Civil Society with funding from USAID, the CCD advocates for the rights of people with disabilities. Aazami, now 49 years old, works as an activist to ensure those with physical and psychological disabilities are included in a society that too often ostracizes them.

Aazami, along with the seventy percent of CCD employees who also have disabilities, instead serve as examples of what they can contribute and achieve. In a recent workshop, Aazami and his CCD colleagues were presented as models for other Afghans who are struggling to come to terms with their disabilities.

Workshop participants were encouraged to reintegrate into their communities, and listened to suggested techniques to help educate and change society’s oppressive and discriminatory views on those with disabilities. They also received information about their rights as individuals and Muslims.

“This workshop has really encouraged me,” says Mohammad Kundal Quraishi, who attended the workshop. “The story of Mr. Aazami and the speeches of religious scholars, the information about our national laws and international conventions that are signed by the Afghan government all give us strength; a hope that we are not forgotten people.”