17 September 2020 – One of the many impacts of containment measures, including confinement, is the limitation of young people’s participation in public life and sports events. Indeed, these were often part of their pre-pandemic daily routine and as has been observed, society’s most vulnerable are often those most affected by the dramatic decrease in participation opportunities.
To counter this in Kyrgyzstan, UNODC and the Ministry of Education and Science recently partnered to provide children and youth across the country with opportunities for positive engagement and to foster physical activity and social inclusion during COVID-19.
One such opportunity was the Line Up Live Up online challenge, a video competition organized during the month of July. Over 700 girls and boys from across the country rose to the challenge and submitted creative videos of themselves doing exercises at home and explaining how sport helps them in their daily lives, especially in dealing with the stress resulting from confinement.
“Youth involvement in sports and the development of personal skills among children today is one of the key tasks of the educational system of the Kyrgyz Republic,” noted Nadira Zhusupbekova, Deputy Minister of Education and Science. “During the pandemic, the education system faced serious challenges, but thanks to such initiatives, children can develop their skills and showcase their talents, and it is important to create opportunities for children with special needs.”
To promote young people’s interest in intellectual sports and to foster an inclusive approach in education, a Blitz Chess Tournament was also organized in July as part of this initiative, thanks to cooperation between UNODC and the Kyrgyz Chess Federation.
Participation spanned all corners of the country and, through partnerships with civil society organizations, sports federations and children’s institutions, the initiative reached the most disadvantaged populations, including children with disabilities and those lacking parental care, ensuring that no-one is left behind.
Young people with disabilities often find themselves excluded from their communities, from educational and employment opportunities, and from social and recreational events. With this in mind, the inclusive format of the Chess Tournament and active outreach among institutions for children with disabilities made their participation possible – even in these new global circumstances.
The mother of one of the tournament participants, Ainur Aleeva, said: “Because of his diagnosis, it is difficult for Tilegen to work with his hands, but he has good mental abilities. Participation in the challenge helped my son to feel valued in society and show his abilities.”
Continued engagement in sports-based activities can help build confidence and skills among young people with special needs. Aisha Burebekova, the mother of another young participant, highlighted how chess allowed her daughter Daria to strive for success: “She is constantly improving her skills and knowledge in this sport. For us, such tournaments, and in general events to support young people with disabilities, are very important. We thank UNODC in Kyrgyzstan for organizing this great initiative.”
An award ceremony held in late-August in Bishkek welcomed participants of both the Line Up Live Up online challenge and the Blitz Chess Tournament and provided educational and sports materials as prizes to the winners. During the event, Mayerim Osmonalieva, Vice-President of the Kyrgyz Chess Federation, expressed her readiness to partner with UNODC and hold more tournaments in the future with the further inclusion of children with disabilities.
Kyrgyzstan is one of 12 countries currently implementing UNODC’s Line Up Live Up initiative, which aims to reduce crime and violence by strengthening positive youth engagement and life skills such as communication, teamwork, self-control and respect.