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The kingdom is all set to unite next month in festival form in a bid to bring different communities together to highlight inclusivity and harmony in diversity; ensuring no one is left behind.
The non-profit initiative, entitled Bahrain for all, All for Bahrain (BHR4ALL), has been attracting thousands of people from different walks of life, embassies, clubs, societies, organisations and directorates to come together to showcase their heritage and abilities.
The cultural campaign was conceptualised by Nivedita M Dhadphale in 2011, who is also the founder of ConsultNivs and CSR Heroes. She, Salman Amjad, a mechanical engineer, and Mohammed Usman, an IT engineer, have volunteered their time and efforts into organising the annual event which is now in its ninth edition under the theme of BHR4ALL 2020 “Leaving Nobody Behind”.
“It is important for the communities to unite under the umbrella of one vision and one goal – that being Bahrain,” said Nivedita. “We need to show the world that there are so many communities with rich cultures that make up the fabric of Bahrain’s society. We live and work in harmony and stand by the country regardless of our nationality, gender or ability.
“I believe that our event also creates more camaraderie and understanding between each other. We have communities from different faiths and countries including Pakistan, India, Sudan, Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, Kenya, Tunisia, Jordan, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Palestine and more participating in BHR4All 2020. For the first time, the event is in the Manama. We are very much part of society and it is an opportunity to thank and celebrate the country we call home.”
Last year, the main event, which was held in Prince Khalifa bin Salman Park in Hidd, was said to have attracted a footfall of more than 50,000 people. This year, the two day social spectacular will be held at Bahrain Bay on February 6 and 7 and according to Nivedita it will be an inclusive event in every sense of the word.
“In every event, we try to fill in the gaps and offer more to visitors and participants,” explained Nivedita. “The overall theme being “Leaving Nobody Behind” meaning we must include all members of our society regardless of ability. The idea of BHR4ALL was to mobilise different communities in Bahrain to showcase their culture and abilities, to highlight the strength of “inclusivity and unity in diversity” in the kingdom and use it as a platform to promote and raise awareness of the differently abled community.”
Nivedita has worked with the differently-abled in Bahrain for more than almost 20 years and before that in the UK with a specific focus on the intellectually disabled. She gained insight into the difficulties faced by the families and over the years, she developed the ability to alleviate to some degree their hardships as well as to appreciate the fundamental challenges and requirements of this vulnerable and voiceless community.
“They are a community that is often less understood and inadvertently ignored,” she added. “Hence, we make sure that all of the centres and schools are contacted and invited. From the outset, we have invited and ensured that special needs centres, women’s groups and senior citizens who are the pillars of any society are specially invited and included.”
Every year they organise more than 30 events to raise awareness about all communities in Bahrain which culminates with a mega event to showcase all participating societies.
She added: “All our events are inclusive whereby we ensure that those with different abilities and included. During our inclusive public events, not only are queries raised about long-term care but also about the full spectrum of special needs, indicating a glaring lacuna in our knowledge of disability.
“In the long term, our resolve is to inspire optimisation of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) budgets with a genuine impact on society through: alignment of thinking, integration of activities, active engagement of key stakeholders and the fulfilment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We cannot work without sufficient funding.
“We are deeply grateful to the private sector that has supported our initiatives. Their presence has touched tens of thousands while showcasing the inclusivity and unity in diversity in the Kingdom of Bahrain.”
This year’s event will feature a Sensory Room as well as several stalls showcasing cultural items, handmade goods, food and products for sale from various communities and societies on the island.
“This is the first event in Bahrain to create an area designed specifically for those who may develop sensory overload,” added Nivedita. “Family members with different sensory issues will have an opportunity to enjoy the event in a comfortable environment. The Sensory Room provides a calm space for people with special needs to relax, offers a relaxing environment to calm anyone who may feel overwhelmed in busy and unfamiliar surroundings and is designed for people with autism, dementia or cognitive impairment.”
There will be more than 30 performances by different communities too including the Regional Institute of Autism (RIA), the Friendship Society for the Blind and the Dance Academy.
She added: “Apart from the performances by different groups, we have a large children’s play area which includes the sensory room. Free space has been allocated to Little Pearls Nursery and the Friendship Society for the Blind amongst others to conduct arts and crafts.
“Space is also offered free of charge to special needs centres, communities and embassies and we charge small businesses to help cover the cost of the event.”
The event is being supported by the Ministry of Interior and the Capital Governorate and it all falls in line with His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, HRH Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa and HRH Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa’s position on the protection of religious freedoms and respect for pluralism and intellectual, cultural and religious diversity.
“The Capital governor HE Shaikh Hisham bin Abdul Rahman Al Khalifa and his team are being highly supportive with logistics and have offered their assistance to ensure that the event runs smoothly,” said Nivedita. “The Ministry of Interior has always supported us with community police, trained uniformed social workers, traffic the Police Band and the police horses. The Ministry of Interior and social workers help us manage the crowds and liaise between communities.”
The kingdom’s commitment to the physical, moral and mental development of youth as well as the values of inclusivity, tolerance, peace and social solidarity are referenced in the National Action Charter. BHR4ALL’s goals are clearly aligned with those of the National Action Charter and their vision is to support and encourage youth empowerment, health through sports, intellectual development and inclusive social cohesion.
“The success of the events lies squarely on the shoulders of our small team of organisers, communities and generous partners who see the value of showcasing national unity and inclusivity,” Nivedita said. “Moreover, the agonising stigma of having a child with different abilities is rarely discussed openly, but it does exist and is a covert reason for unhappiness in some families. Studies suggest that extensive support from and involvement of extended family can no longer be counted upon as the family structure is rapidly changing. We as a society should accept some responsibility in the long run.
“Our aim at BHR4All continues to be to invite the private sector to share some burden of care by converting short-term “charity-based donation” to that of enduring partnership, empathy and collaboration. The families are thus assured, they are not alone and that we are here to help: Leaving Nobody Behind.”