I was not born a disabled child. I developed disability at infancy. While growing up in my rural village I hardly noticed the difference between other children and myself, all the parts of my body functioned well. More so as a last child I received unprecedented love and special attention from my mother—my first mentor, motivator, and inspirator! She always told me that the uniqueness of my person did not change even after the protracted sickness that led to my disability. When people tried to make derogatory comments about me, my mother would try to shield me from negativity.
My first experience of discrimination was when I was 10 years old. It came from the principal of Girls Secondary School, Orlu. She represented a culture, a society, a world that shaped and bottled wrong perceptions for women with disabilities. As voiceless as I was, that experience helped shape my life goal. I started dreaming. My dream was to lead in changing the paradigm, in changing the societal twisted perceptions of women,and to pave the wayfor a brighter future for women with disabilities in Nigeria.
I am working toward this every day. With immense support from my tremendous team of supporters the ball has beenset rolling. The path we are threading is that of Empowerment. Together we are proving to the world that empowering women with disabilities makes them contributing members of their communities.
Women with disabilities constitute 60% of 11 million Nigerians with disabilities. We now refuse to be seen as objects of charity and pity. Our platform, Divine Foundation for Disabled Persons, is all out sensitizing and educating societies, and changing the minds of individuals and communities against wrong perceptions of women with disabilities. In a country where attitudinal barriers limit persons with disabilities, the women folks are more limited by male preference and female exclusion.
In the process of making my dream a reality, I of course face challenges. Combining my paid job with my project is a major challenge. My paid job demands so much energy, responsibilities, and commitments. It often distracts my attention from vigorously pursuing accomplishment of the mission of Divine Foundation. I would like to work full time with Divine Foundation, but I would need a sustaining project before making this decision.
Despite the challenges, we are making progress every day toward our goal of empowering women with disabilities.
We have been doing advocacy work to the government of Abia state, Nigeria. There we are on the move to secure a job for a visually impaired woman named Onyinyechi. We facilitated actions that assisted getting Onyinyechi’s credentials to the government and sent an advocacy letter on letter-headed paper of Divine Foundation to the Executive governor of Abia state. We are hopeful that she will soon get a job with the civil service commission.
My team isalso working hard to ensure we are sustainable in Nigeria. We aregetting more visibilityin Nigeria, and Divine Foundation has now opened an account with a bank in Nigeria. We have been able to accomplish this feat using the Foundation’s Certificate of Incorporation Constitution which included the mission and objectives of the Foundation and some amount of money from the cash award from World Pulse.
Thanks to World Pulse and my team who are helping to pave theway for my dreams!