Kamila Rollan.

In March, Kamila Rollan was appointed to the Presidential Council for Youth Policy by Erlan Karin, the State Secretary of Kazakhstan. 

Rollan, now a third-year PhD student at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, was a 2017 fellow in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Anniversary Inclusive Education Fellowship Program. The University of Minnesota program was led by the Institute on Community Integration and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, in cooperation with Arizona State University and several international partners. 

The appointment came swiftly after a new government was installed in Kazakhstan in January, amid demands for more accountability in government, said Rollan.  

“The main functions are advising and informing the president about the issues and needs of youth, providing recommendations for the youth policy agenda, and analyzing the agenda’s implementation,” she said. “It’s a platform for people like me to voice our concerns about the state of affairs for youth.” 

In a public statement, Karin said the group includes public activists, scientists, entrepreneurs, and organizational leaders, who will contribute to the development of conceptual documents and practical recommendations for improving youth policy. They have already met twice and are now dividing into working groups to develop the recommendations. 

“At this new stage in the development of our country, the Council will become an effective platform for the systematic advancement of the youth agenda," Karin said.

Rollan said she brings a measure of gender diversity to the 29-member body, which is 70 percent male, as well as a perspective informed by her work in the disability and inclusion field, both as a founder of a non-governmental organization and as a student. Her in-process thesis explores how NGOs affect inclusive education.

As ADA fellows from Kazakhstan, Rollan and Sabina Ismailova developed an early framework that led to founding an NGO that provided educational support services to students with disabilities in inclusive settings in their home country. Due to the pandemic and other factors, the organization is now winding down, she said, but the families brought together through its formation are still keeping in touch and providing support to one another. The experience also informed her thesis work.

“Some of my respondents strongly believe that without NGOs, inclusive education wouldn’t happen, or it would take much longer to happen,” she said. “I employ systems thinking to promote a holistic vision for making NGOs’ work more visible. Inclusive education won’t really work unless we weave it into society, culture, and the workplace. It’s all part of one, big story.”