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India: Blind Models Strut Their Stuff in Fashion Show

Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from Reuters, November 27, 2006.

Ahmedabad, India--A group of blind models paraded down the catwalk on Sunday in what organizers said was the first fashion show of its kind in India staged to try to combat stereotypes of disabled people.

Dressed in glittering Indian attire, over 30 blind women strode down the ramp without assistance in a show on the outskirts of Ahmedabad.

"I cannot see how I am looking in the new clothes but I am having a good time," said 23-year-old participant, Ekta.

"I would hear about fashion shows and designer clothes on the television, but never dreamt of walking like models do," she said, as she draped a sequined, green sari over her shoulder.

The organizers said the fashion show, which had attracted around 200 people, was the first of its kind in India--a country where many of its 22 million disabled people face discrimination and are not awarded equal rights.

"Blind people are not considered as a part of society. They are given boring and menial jobs to isolate them from the glamourous and exciting world," said Mukta Dagli from Pragya Chakshu Sanstha, a local charity for the visually impaired.

"We want to bring the blind out of a dull, dark life. Now let the world see them."

The young women--who applied their own makeup and dressed themselves--were given a week-long training course on how to walk down the catwalk by choreographers and on self-grooming.

"We are young, beautiful and hope to do more shows to gain confidence to fight the darkness of our lives," said 25-year-old Shweta Kothari.