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Youth leaders head to Azerbaijan for Special Olympics

The forum will see young leaders, joined by an additional 100 adult leaders from around the world, develop group projects to create more inclusive communities in their home countries.

A group of 120 youth leaders with and without intellectual disabilities is attending an inclusive-focused forum in Baku, Azerbaijan, which started on Monday.

Special Olympics South Africa has sent the following individuals to represent South Africa in this year’s forum: Sinalo Mkrozwana (athlete leader), Juliana Mbhele (mentor), Waki Mbuthia (youth leader) and Wanga Manyala (initiatives manager).

The Special Olympics Global Youth Leadership Forum is one of the flagship events to mark the 50th Anniversary of Special Olympics.

The forum will see these young leaders, joined by an additional 100 adult leaders from around the world, develop group projects to create more inclusive communities in their home countries.

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The youth leaders will develop projects in Baku to be implemented in their home countries after the completion of The Forum.

These projects will be supported through grants from Special Olympics International.

The five-day Forum is being supported by the Ministry of Youth and Sport of the Republic of Azerbaijan as well as Lions Clubs International, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, among others.

One of the key objectives of the Special Olympics movement over the next 50 years will be the promotion of youth engagement through worldwide school-based initiatives known as the Unified Schools and the development of the Unified Generation, in which young people with and without intellectual disability come together through inclusive sport and leadership programmes.

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Azad Rahimov, Minister of Youth and Sport of the Republic of Azerbaijan, said: “Azerbaijan is a country with an ancient and rich history, culture and traditions.

“We are proud to be known globally as a country of sport, and a country that deeply values its youth.

“By hosting the 2018 Special Olympics Global Youth Leadership Forum, we once more demonstrate the value that we place on every single one our young people – those with and without intellectual disabilities.”

“As a new bridge towards a more inclusive world, this forum will serve as a beacon of hope to all those who have felt excluded from society.”

Legacy of the Global Youth Leadership Forum

Upon returning home, youth delegations will spearhead a variety of inclusive projects, supported through the Special Olympics Youth Innovation Grant initiative.

Through this effort, over 8 500 young people will engage in inclusive sports and leadership activities in 250 new Unified Schools and sports clubs worldwide.

Commenting on the forum, Special Olympics Azerbaijan president, Shahin Aliyev added, “We are honoured that the Special Olympics Global Youth Forum is being hosted in Azerbaijan. Special Olympics Azerbaijan has been committed to this movement for 25 years. Being a member of the Special Olympics is a great joy and honour for our athletes, coaches, volunteers and families in our organisation.”

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