Welcome to the series #EVERYDAYHEROES in which we introduce exceptional members of our network. Through pop culture, we discovered that heroes fly, have superpowers, come from another planet, and wear capes and costumes, but there are other, real heroes. Heroes we are surrounded by every day, who raise their voices in times of injustice and fight for the rights of all of us. Who look the same as us, who express their superpower by fighting every day for a better and democratic society. Everyday heroes, that we have to talk about. Follow us on our Instagram to catch the next interview among the first ones.
Another Everyday Hero is Mahammad Kekalov from Azerbaijan.
Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Mahammad, I’m based in Baku, Azerbaijan. I am a social entrepreneur and I concentrate on disability issues in Azerbaijan. I spend my free time (even though I don’t have much of it) with my friends in Baku, and doing yoga.
What do you consider your biggest success?
The biggest success I’m most proud of is having created a demand for adaptive clothing in Azerbaijan from scratch. When I started my brand 4 years ago, I had to explain the meaning of “adaptive” clothing, and no one was really aware of the fashion issues of people with disabilities. However, today I lead a pioneering brand from Baku that has strong local support, both from civil society, donors, and most importantly people with disabilities, as well as constantly getting local and international media attention. Together with my community of models with disabilities, we’ve created an event – our flagship Kekalove Adaptive Fashion Shows, that’s been running for 2 years now with around 5 shows in this timeframe. We’ve appeared at high-level diplomatic events as well as the Azerbaijan Fashion Week with our concept. The show has multi-faceted social impact tracks, making jobs for people with disabilities while boosting their self-confidence, providing positive media representation, and serving as a creative instrument led by people with disabilities both on and back the stage to advocate for disability rights in Azerbaijan.
What does the word DEMOCRACY mean to you?
Democracy is first and foremost inclusion and equal opportunities in civic participation. I approach everything from a disability-inclusion perspective and I sincerely believe democracy is an important element for sustainable disability-inclusion activism. Unfortunately today good governance and democratic institutions are not disability inclusive not only in Azerbaijan but also across the world and that’s something we’re pushing to change.
Who do you consider your Everyday Hero and why?
My Everyday Hero was my grandmother who inspired me with her commitment to kindness and justice. She raised me and my younger brother while having a severe visual disability and was always present in our upbringing, education, and character development. I learned many leadership and kindness lessons from her and today I’m driven by the will to help more people like my grandmother in Azerbaijan who deserve to live in better conditions.
What does the concept of Everyday Hero mean to you?
The concept of an Everyday Hero, for me, is a person who’s not a popular leader or a famous person – who’s an everyday person but guides you through with their wisdom and teachings. These might not be on purpose, but it’s enough to be able to observe them and follow in their footsteps.
Why did you become a member of EDYN?
I became a member of EDYN almost 3 years ago because EDYN is a platform for young people like me to have our own input in building a more democratic and resilient society in our countries. EDYN has offered me a fantastic network, and many significant opportunities to develop my capacity and realize my ideas.