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‘We are all one’: The Unstoppable run promotes rights of persons with disabilities

Twenty-two year old Rahma Khaled participated in a Friday morning 2 km run to send a strong message; we are all one.

The swimming champion with Down syndrome hopes to cement the belief that everyone is capable and that “with strong will, nothing is impossible.”

“We are all heroes, we are all one,” she said. 

Khaled recently made headlines after she co-hosted a talk show, becoming the first TV presenter in Egypt with Down syndrome.

Over 1500 people participated in The Unstoppable run on Friday organized by UNFPA and the Ministry of Youth and Sports for persons with disabilities, in partnership with the Ministry of Social Solidarity, the Egyptian Sports Federation for Mental Disabilities and Cairo Runners.

The run followed a 2 KM route around the Cairo International Stadium and comes as part of activities commemorating the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities that fell on December 3.

This year, International Day of Persons with Disabilities’ theme is empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.

With this event, UNFPA and the Ministry of Youth and Sports also commemorate the Year of the Disabled, announced by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

“My son is like everyone else,” said Suzanne Aziz, who came to the run with her son Abdel Rahman Ayman, a 17-year-old athlete with Down syndrome, “he has the right to participate in such events just like any other boy.”

Aziz saw this run as an opportunity for her son to integrate with the society “in order for people to know his capabilities.”

Mahmoud Samir Sawah also participated on Friday in his wheelchair.

“I am here to show the people we know and the people we don’t know, that we can run and we can do anything we want,” he said.

“UNFPA is proud to work with its national partners to integrate persons with disabilities’ concerns and needs in all of our programs,” Aleksandar Bodiroza, UNFPA Representative in Egypt, said. “At the country level, UNFPA provides technical support for the incorporation of the disability perspective into health policies, programs and national development frameworks, while advocating for the participation of persons with disabilities in decision-making processes. At the same time, the Fund works to support capacity building and education efforts, as well as positive media involvement to ensure adequate quality of care and response, particularly for young persons and young women living with disabilities.”

According to UNFPA’s Young Persons with Disabilities global study, young persons with disabilities under the age of 18 are almost four times more likely than are their peers without disabilities to be victims of abuse.

Girls and young women with disabilities are almost without exception denied the right to make decisions for themselves about their reproductive and sexual health, increasing their risk of sexual violence and unplanned pregnancy, according to the study.

The run comes as part of UNFPA’s and the Ministry of Youth and Sports’ Destination Egypt 2030 initiative, which aims at mobilizing young people to address developmental challenges through active participation in sports, music, art, community mobilization and capacity building initiatives.