Join us in helping people realise their dreams at Azerbaijan’s first Inclusive Art School
A blog by Sevil Gasimova, UNDP Project Manager and Kamran Aliyev. UNFPA Communications Officer
Azerbaijan’s first-ever Inclusive Art School in Baku provides interactive courses in arts and crafts for people from all backgrounds, with free classes for students with disabilities.
But it is much more than a school.
It is also a gallery that holds regular exhibitions at which students can display and sell their works.
For many of its students, the Inclusive Art School has provided a lifeline throughout periods of strict lockdown during the pandemic, holding online classes and keeping a vital social network alive.
In addition to courses and exhibitions, the school is now expanding its services to include vocational training and job-seeking support for people with disabilities.
You can help us in our mission to leave no one behind by supporting the school and the students in a number of different ways.
But first a bit of essential background…
What is the Inclusive Art School?
The school was established in 2019 at the initiative of the First Vice-President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Mehriban Aliyeva, as part of a wider project for ‘Addressing the rights and wellbeing of Persons with Disabilities and Veterans of the Karabakh conflict’.
The school and the wider project are being jointly implemented by Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of the Population, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
Although the school was initially opened in small premises, enrolments increased even during the pandemic, leading to its relocation to a much bigger space at the DOST Center #4. Completely refurbished and redesigned in line with universal accessibility standards, the school was officially inaugurated by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev on 12 April 2021.
What does the school currently offer?
The school currently offers lessons in painting, knitting and woodcarving. These lessons are provided free-of-charge for students with disabilities, while other students pay a small fee of 30 AZN.
The school organises regular exhibitions of the students’ handicrafts and drawings, providing them with opportunities to earn some money from their work.
The first students to enrol at the school in 2019 have now completed their courses. Forty-eight students with disabilities received certificates in June 2021.
What comes next?
We are continuing to pilot new art directions, including courses in making souvenirs of stained glass, decoupage, beads and other crafts at professional and paraprofessional level.
We are also focused on developing a vocational training programme for people with disabilities. This will include training in skills for specific occupations such as office management, customer services and delivery.
In addition to vocational training opportunities, we are also drawing on UNDP’s experience and expertise in developing an inclusive self-employment component to provide entrepreneurial training and opportunities for people with disabilities. For this purpose, we are further exploring links with inclusive employers through collaboration with ABAD, the ASAN service, Pasha holding, hotel chains and restaurants.
To help with any issues related to adjusting to employment, we will also make psychological assistance available for all students with disabilities according to their individual needs.
And of course, we will continue working throughout the project on raising public awareness and capacity-building for public and private sector employers, advocating for and promoting the many benefits of social inclusion.
So how can you help us leave no one behind?
✔️ If you are a donor organization you can help fund some of the exciting new components of our project, including the scaling-up of our Vocational Training Programme and our expansion into new art directions. (A detailed proposal with indicators and an action plan are available on request.)
✔️ If you are an employer you can offer to provide on-the-job training for our students. For example, if you need more people with reception and customer services skills, you could offer training and internship opportunities to our students, with the possibility of employing them on a regular basis at a later date.
✔️ If you are looking for new corporate gifts for your company, you can purchase art products made by our students and have them branded with your logo. In this way, you can show that your company stands for and actively supports social inclusion.
✔️ We would also be very happy to receive offers of in-kind support in the form of free training sessions for beneficiaries, equipment for our vocational or arts programmes, or in-kind grants for self-employment projects.
✔️ Organizations and individuals can also provide patronage to one or more of the project beneficiaries by financing their further education and training or by assisting and promoting their employment.
We are very much looking forward to working together with you.
The more we work together, the more people we can ensure are not left behind.
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