Show dedicated to special children wins applause

Published September 20, 2023
A model walks the ramp with two differently-abled children during the fashion show on Monday evening. — Photo by Tanveer Shahzad
A model walks the ramp with two differently-abled children during the fashion show on Monday evening. — Photo by Tanveer Shahzad

ISLAMABAD: True Sight, an organisation working towards ensuring access and opportunities for differently-abled children, mainly the visually challenged, held a fashion show, Beyond Labels, in collaboration with Serena Hotels.

The event was attended by members of the diplomatic corps, the corporate sector, and others who were keen to show their support.

Young children who have overcome the challenges associated with limited or no vision and embraced their uniqueness shared the stories of their journey to empowerment. The event also created a space for some of the True Sight children to showcase their talents, with musical performances by Fawad Alam, Mariya Kanwal and Sabahat.

True Sight’s founder, Atif Kiyani, and its president, Shahzad Javed, highlighted various initiatives of their organisation and thanked Serena for the support. The fashion show aimed to celebrate and empower children with disabilities, redefine beauty and transcend the typical boundaries of the runway.

“We have been working since 2009 with visually challenged persons, people who are blind, across Pakistan. We have been working on education, health and providing digital products like talking watches, mp3 players, blood pressure apparatus and glucometers, games like chess and ludo and even a Quran in braille,” Atif Kiyani said.

“The idea for this fashion show came about as we realised there is no equivalent of awards and fashion shows for the visually impaired in Pakistan. This event in Serena gave these children the opportunity to get dressed up and their parents brought them to the hotel,” he added.

Creating more inclusive and accessible spaces requires broad support and commitment, as investment in infrastructure, thoughtful design and execution of initiatives, and a receptive audience are critical. A forum like Serena in the capital is able to bring together different stakeholders and decision-makers who can then advocate for inclusive spaces.

There continue to be numerous barriers for differently-abled people as they attempt to avail professional and social opportunities. Inaccessible physical environments, lack of transportation, the unavailability of assistive devices and technologies, communication barriers, and biases in society are daunting.

The event engaged the local community to raise awareness about the importance of inclusivity and promoting acceptance and support for children with disabilities. The designers of Beyond Labels, Zordan, Zenyaz by Asad, Nazish Couture and Babu Collection, put together a selection of glamorous Eastern evening wear, including the quintessential heavily embellished, brightly hued wedding wear.

Mohammad Adnan, one of the models, said, “The event was gorgeous. I really enjoyed the fashion show, and I think the audience did as well. This was my first time modelling on a runway. I had done a shoot earlier and had posted about it on social media. A friend contacted me to ask if I would like to participate in this show and I agreed. I was delighted to learn of the good work True Sight is doing.”

The models walked the runway with differently-abled children in an attempt to demonstrate inclusive fashion. In keeping with the current styles, most of the formal outfits had long, flowing floor-length shirts or lehngas in silk. While not all of the models looked comfortable, most of the children seemed to be enjoying the experience.

Tehseen Najam said, “It is important that the talents and abilities of differently abled people get showcased so more doors open for them. There are biases about the capacity of differently-abled people that will only go away as there is more awareness and more interaction.”

True Sight has provided more than 60,000 children with education and training courses.

Atif Kiyani said, “We try to impart skills to the children so they can be independent and support themselves. They should not need to rely on charity to survive.”

Published in Dawn, September 20th, 2023

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