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Yaroslava Shines in the Gender Media School of Special Olympics Ukraine

A young woman standing next to an older man handing her over a framed certificate.

“I had pages on social networks, but they were not bright, nor informative. Thanks to the Gender Media School, I learned to shoot and edit my videos well, to make videos from photos, and I became a confident user of social networks. I now know in detail their functionality.”—This is the powerful endorsement from Yaroslava Puzan for the Gender Media School of Special Olympics Ukraine which she completed last year.

In the beginning Yaroslava, a 21-year-old athlete from Special Olympics Ukraine, was reluctant to sign up for the Media School: she didn’t own a mobile phone and her attempts at managing her social media accounts had not proven very successful up to that point.

The Gender Media School of Special Olympics Ukraine provides educational and methodological training in journalism and social media management to young women with intellectual disabilities, aged 11 to 25. Last November, 14 lucky athletes all from different regions of Ukraine enrolled in the programme and followed online classes where they learnt about blogging, social networks, journalism and even some basic skills on how to shoot and edit videos. Many experts in the field jumped at the opportunity to pass their knowledge onto the athletes, including professional journalists and members of the Special Olympics Ukraine staff, including Executive Director, Andrii Pidvarko; Head of Communications, Anastasiia Volobujeva and Director of Development of the Sports programme, Yevhen Honcharenko.

The programme concluded with a face-to-face encounter in Kyiv, where the participants had the chance to discuss their future plans and give an evaluation of the whole experience. The event was also an occasion to award the media school students with certificates for training and even some prizes!

A group of people sitting around a table and listening to someone speaking outside of the frame.
Participants in the Gender Media School of Special Olympiсs Ukraine which provides training in journalism and social media management to young women with intellectual disabilities, aged 11 to 25.

Yaroslava thoroughly enjoyed the course and was an enthusiastic and receptive student. Her skills remarkably improved and not only has her social media presence sky-rocketed, but her well-crafted messages helped raise awareness around the Special Olympics movement and its mission.

“I love Instagram and Facebook,” commented Yaroslava. “You can communicate, post photos and view photos of friends, follow their lives through the stories they tell. I also like that you can go live with friends and communicate with them.”

The media school was founded in the spring of 2020 as a response to the athletes’ demand for access and knowledge of social networks. Support from the Fund for Social Protection of the Disabled People—a non-profit institution coordinated by the Ministry of Social Policy—enabled Special Olympics Ukraine to develop and implement the programme.

The Gender Media School of Special Olympics Ukraine promotes gender equality and aims at raising awareness among the parents of children with disabilities about digital media, the respect of human rights and at overcoming all forms of discrimination in the educational process. Its great popularity among the athletes urged the staff to set up a new edition of the programme, “The Gender Media School of Special Olympics Ukraine—The Path to Success.” Starting in September 2021, young men and women from all over the country will participate in a three-month course to learn about journalism, media and social media just like Yaroslava!

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