In Nigeria, every woman living with a disability has stories to tell. Our stories embody multiple challenges, which constitute setbacks. We are subjected to lives of dependency, self-pity and poverty. Understandably, multiple challenges push some of us to the streets for alms begging and other acts that degrade us, yet our difficulties serve as our stepping stones.
I nurture my dreams, the dream of challenging those societies which embody beliefs and attitudes working against me. I believe I have innate strength, and I use that to change my stories from those of dis-abilities to those of abilities. The joy of working on my mission strengthens me. The World Pulse support motivates me to groundbreaking actions. I am on a drive to change stereotypes; I am bold for change!
“We shall not join hands with societies to bring us down”
About three decades ago I was on an escapade which later improved my life. There in my rural community I came in contact with ritual killers. I was targeted because of my disability and because I have female organs. I remember with nostalgic feeling how I was saved by my boldness even as young and tender as I was then. I still remember stories of other women who were engulfed in the snares of the same killers on the prowl. The lives of those individuals were terminated. They did not make it alive like I did.
Back then, I refused to share some of these dangerous life-threatening experiences with my highly protective mother. I was cautious. I am guided by the reality that sharing such fear-inducing experiences with my protective mum might have foreclosed my upward-moving ambitions. Had I shared with her, I probably would not have had the numerous wonderful life-changing experiences and opportunities that have propelled me to where I am today. I probably would not have prepared myself for the works I do in affecting the lives of others, in changing communities, in changing policies and assisting in the development of my community and of my country. I would have lived in fear.
Today, sharing my personal experiences and stories inspires others. I am bold to tell them that determination and positivism are the keys to changing societal perceptions and stereotypes. I am a living example testifying that we can overcome attitudinal barriers if we perceive ourselves differently, if we are highly determined to make the change happen. Yes, we can. Hence I urge my cohorts to withdraw from lives of self-pity and despondency. Our ability is in that which people see as disability. We get ourselves up because we are seen on the ground. We focus our energy on contributing to the development of our societies and empowering others rather than on seeing ourselves as objects of charity.
I have been engaged in a lot of counseling lately. People who know me closely and follow my online postings have been sending referrals to me. In this way I assist women with disabilities with counseling as well as assist with information to mothers of children living with disabilities. I help them sort out some challenges associated with living with disabilities in Nigeria. It is said that experience is the best teacher. I am not a professional counsellor but with my numerous experiences I am now an expert in disability issues and counseling. Because of stigma attached to disability in Nigeria people most times shy away from those with disabilities, hence disabled persons and families go from one church to another in search of miracle healing. I provide counseling to women with disabilities and guide parents of children with disabilities in getting solutions to challenges. I discuss disability issues with non-disabled persons like church leaders, employers, government officials, to reduce stigma and make them stop seeing persons with disabilities as objects of charity.
On Saturday 11 February I was part of the meeting of the Deaf Women Association of Nigeria, Lagos chapter. The National President of the Association, Adedoyin Beyioku-Alase, gave me the honour. I stirred the hearts of the women with my inspirational talk. Mrs. Adedoyin was magnanimous as she provided an interpreter for us to interact closely.
Only one woman out of about twenty women I met had a job. The rest are jobless. One is a University graduate and about two have OND certificates. The rest are unskilled and not working. All of them have dependent children. Though the women were so happy and excited about my visit I was downcast because of their plights. I encouraged them as usual in my own little way. We shared some stories, and I picked up some pressing issues that need to be addressed urgently. Divine Foundation is waiting for logistics information from the National President. We are warming up to empower five of the women whose cases are really worse than others. I believe the little support would enable the women to take care of some of their challenges.
The major challenges I seriously faced this period is mobility. With the nature of my own disability, my body system does not withstand stress and or much physical activities like walking or running. Running to cross roads in Lagos and walking from the bus stops to my destinations has always been difficult. Again I do my project work mostly during weekends when I am free from my paid job. But from my various interactions with people with different forms of disabilities, the challenge of mobility/accessibility is so common amongst us. I think getting a personal car can assist in making my work easier—now, I’m setting my sights on that goal!