“I desire to address what limits persons with disabilities other than asking questions like “what is wrong with them? I am devoted to championing for the improvement of lives of the less privileged who live on the edges of society.”
During a civil war, I was exposed to hunger, malnutrition, diseases and homelessness. My widowed mother evacuated her home with six children and during that time, I became sick, unconscious and developed kyphosis. I passed through stages of my life battling one challenge after another, including those associated with being a woman and others related to living with disability in a society where opportunities were inaccessible to females. These challenges shaped my life focus and now I work hard to change stereotypes.
My burning desire was to create a space for skills training and to spread awareness of the value of women with disabilities to improve their lives. Through many sacrifices, I established an NGO – the Divine Foundation for Disabled Persons.
What is the issue you are trying to solve? The challenges confronting women with disabilities are highly complex and diversified. Presently in my country people have yet to come to terms with the fact that persons with disabilities are also persons with special gifts. Disability issues are currently addressed from a charity perspective focusing the challenges of disabilities on the individuals. The challenges should be focused and addressed within the societies, the citizens and the nation. I desire to address what limits persons with disabilities other than asking questions like “what is wrong with them?”
I grew up with a disability. I have firsthand living experience. I have conducted research and written reference papers on disability and gender. Not only as I strongly connected with the issue but it is my life’s work.
What is your solution? Through the Divine Foundation for Disabled Persons, we are tackling disabilities from many different angles. Our programs include: the empowerment of individuals so they no longer focus on street begging; mobilizing and community organizing to spread awareness of the value of persons with disabilities; advocacy and human rights campaigns that stop the abuse of disabled persons; sensitizing leaders and others to see persons with disabilities as people of Creator’s image as against objects of charity and miracle performing. Without these diverse approaches attacking the fundamentals of the problem, we cannot lead to significant social change.
In what way will the lives of specific individuals be improved because of your work? The lives of the individuals will be improved because the burden of their problems will be removed from them and will be addressed in the context of society rather than focusing on incapability. Finally, persons with disabilities will feel self-worth and respect.
In five years from now, I have a vision of a world that stops treating persons with disabilities as objects of charity. A world where persons with disabilities are no longer begging on the streets, a world where sermons and activities in the churches and mosques are focused on empowerment not sympathy, and a world where women with disabilities know and value their self-worth, are fully contributing members of their societies and are actively organizing others in their communities for social change.
Impact Goal: To train 20-40 women in each workshop and conduct 5 workshops a year. I would like to train 30 trainers and ultimately reach 4-5,000 people with disabilities in one year.