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Imagine two friends, all in their final year of their undergraduate corporate communication degree.

One is a super organized type of guy while the other defines herself as “adrenaline junkie”, super active in sports perhaps a bit too harsh on herself in getting things done.

Through their community work for their university, they forge a friendship, based on mutual respect and admiration, with a peer living with disabilities.

The friends realize the discrimination experienced day in and day out by persons with disabilities.

They decide to step up and do something to raise awareness about social inclusion and disability rights.

They rally their class mates and pitch the idea of organizing a different, more inclusive sport event.

This is how the idea of It’s OK to be U” is born, a two days event where able bodied students will play a 3 on 3 wheelchair basketball tournament.

This story could have happened in Nepal or in Europe or North America. After all we are all aware of the challenges and obstacles faced by persons living with disabilities everywhere around the world.

Certainly in a country like Nepal, for example, private corporations are still struggling to understand the importance of being more inclusive.

Actions like It’s OK to be U” are small but at the same time essential ingredients for changing the status quo on the ground and it can impact Malaysia where it is going to be organized, a country that undertook a tremendous economic growth but like many other more developed countries, certain social issues still have to be properly dealt with.

The two masterminders are Jay Sun and Wai Wen, respectively vice-president and president of the organizing committee of “It’s OK to be U”.

What is truly remarkable is not just their sheer determination and energy but also their capacity to partner to make the project truly successful.

The Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman, UTAR, a leading higher education institution in Malaysia has embraced the concept under the Department of Mass Communication in collaboration with the Department of Soft Skills Competency. What was just an idea has turned into an official final year project embraced by all everybody.

Having the full support of their university offered Wai and Jay and their mates, a platform to connect and brainstorm on the best ways to roll a truly pioneer event.

Moreover it speaks volume of how much UTAR is stressing the importance of strategic partnerships, equipping the students with strategic management and the more practical skills and methods of communications as Cynthia Lau, the head of Department of Mass Communication, highlights.

Partnerships are very important indeed, locally and internationally.

In Malaysia the team has been working with the Beautiful Gate Foundation, a local not for profit working on disability related issues that will receive all the donations raised throughout the event and the Malaysia Wheelchair Basketball Federation.

Internationally Nepal had something to offer: some insights and expertise on its most recent strides in the struggle for social inclusion and disability rights through sports.

The recent national games, the ongoing wheelchair basketball intra-provinces wheelchair basketball competitions and Turkish Airlines ENGAGE Empowering League, have also proved interesting models that inspired the organizing team in Malaysia.

The fact that these efforts for social inclusion are somehow connecting Malaysia and Nepal, two countries so different from each other, is very promising: new connections are formed and mutual learning is boosted.

Perhaps one day there will be a big Turkish Airlines ENGAGE Empowering League in Malaysia too with a group of local youth and university taking the lead. Surely a tournament like “It’s OK to be Ucould be organized in Nepal too where the best basketball players will have fun on wheelchairs.

The team at UTAR is also leveraging international frameworks as the tournament is not just totally aligned with but also fully embraces the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs.

There is no better way to achieve social inclusion goal 10, social inclusion than striving to work on Goal 17, partnerships.

Wai Wen’s motto is “Giving is the greatest act of grace”. Everyone should find her own way of giving back to the society.

With the right partnerships, it is going to be easier and more fun too, something that the “It’s OK to be Uteam knows it better.

Galimberti is the Co-Founder of ENGAGE, an NGO partnering with youths living with disabilities. He can be reached at


Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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