Refia Ari



Woman of the Year
Pioneer of Disability Support and Special Needs Education for disabled children of KKTC Cyprus

Refia Ari received the Woman of the Year award in 2003 of the Women's Studies &
Education Center, Eastern Mediterranean University (EMU), KKTC/TRNC - Cyprus.
This notable woman's successful efforts enabled disabled children special needs education.

"Mrs Refia (Ari) has created for .. children a world that becomes more beautiful every day"
(Erguclu, News Director, Bayrak Radio Television ~'Yasaminicinden' , Cyprus -KKTC)

This woman's nation also has disabled children. But, Cyprus-KKTC had no facilities for disabled children. Neither for their care and educational special needs, nor disability support and care education for their parents. Special needs education did not exist for disabled children. Parents of disabled children had no education on how to cope. Mentally or physically handicapped children simply existed, suffered.

Refia Ari changed that for disabled children and disability parents of Cyprus-KKTC. Her Successful Woman of the Year Award by the Eastern Mediterranean University's Women's Studies Education Center was for pioneering works which made that change possible. This woman enabled handicapped children's parents educational disability support, disabled children special needs education.

Not even a disability register exited for handicapped men, women, disabled children of Cyprus-KKTC. While this Woman of the Year's country is in the British Commonwealth, the European Union, indeed, the European Convention on Human Rights, concerns were, as the United Nations', with its inter-communal conflict; nothing existed for learning disabilities, educational special needs of disabled children, of this woman's people. An educational arrangement by a nursery for 20 disabled children, interest in learning disabilities and retarded children by two schools with Education and Health Ministries, were unsatisfactory to disabled children's parents. This woman enabled handicapped children's parents disability support and retarded children care education, disabled children with educational needs special needs education.

(This Women Studies Education Center's Woman of the Year 2003, Refia Ari, was born on 3 February 1961 in Paphos -Cyprus, of parents Ozkan and Ayten Kamil -bakers. She is an International Affairs and Relations graduate [1984] of the Middle Eastern Technical University [ODTU] -Turkey, worked for Prime Minister's Press Office -Cyprus-KKTC, and later part-time for a High Commission to Cyprus. She married [1984] Engin Ari [Businessman of the Year 1999 and a founder of the Young Businessmen's Association] -they have two sons [Anil -a high school winner of various academic prizes; and named after his grandfather the late Orhan Seyfi Ari -a hailed teacher, populariser with his wife Suzan Ari of education in Cyprus, younger Orhan with Downs Syndrome].)

Refia Ari, first, motivated some women learning disability parents to attended with her courses in England on children's physical and mental disorders and special educational needs. She contacted international disabled children associations, researched learning difficulties special needs education, traced and organized parents of handicapped children. She motivated women's organizations and fund raised with women colleagues for educational and special needs of disabled children. Then, this woman founded with disability parents, in 1999, the Association for Children in Need of Special Education which researched and offered educational disability support advice and guidance to (especially women) on disabled children. She organized events and activities, raised awareness of special education needs of handicapped children and learning disability carers of Cyprus-KKTC.

The authorities' administrative preferences for the Association for Children in Need of Special Education caused disability groups' verging on falling out and apart, and in 2002 Refia Ari was elected President of the Special Needs Education Association (as renamed) of Cyprus-KKTC to keep the disability groups together.

Refia Ari's leadership brought Turkish Cypriot disability parents together with Greek Cypriot parents of handicapped children for counseling on parenting for social skills, behavior management education, and (especially for women parents) how to cope with caring for disabled children. They jointly arranged, to be extended to both, disability support lectures, special needs education seminars, by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

She petitioned politicians for disability and education reforms - disability support and special needs education for disabled children. In 2006 the Council of State of TRNC-Cyprus directed the Ministry of Education and Culture to research and introduce special education provisions for special needs education of disabled children up to age 18. This Woman of the Year was included in the committee for re-organization of the educational system in KKCT-Cypriot educational history of disability reforms for special needs education of disabled children with learning difficulties.

(Refia Ari has also contributed to bettering women's position in society, and, e.g., at the Conference on 'Women for Europe - Comparing Lives and Economic Systems - the Role of Inner Wheel' organised at the Naples Club in 2008 her paper was "Women's Role in the Construction of the European Identity Culture and Society".)

Refia Ari, with her exceptional leadership qualities and organising skills having pioneered handicapped children's special needs education reforms, was reported to have been be pursuing her vision to get official disability support and special needs education also for disabled adults, and in August 2010 legislation has been introduced to extend disability help also to older disabled persons starting with state-funded mobility homes and the adoption of the United Nations disability rights.

Her voluntary works with various disability organizations and vision for the disabled are based on Refia Ari's philosophy that "We have advantages in life and disadvantages; some of us can't run -but if one's hand is held one can at least walk."

Bayrak Radio Television's biographical interview of 2003 in Turkish of Refia Ari

Refia Ari's son Anil Ari's educational prize winning essay Economic Globalization   Refia's husband Engin Ari   mom-in-law Suzan Ari   dad-in-law Teacher Ari

Refia Ari Woman of Year Special Education Reforms