In very many societies, women are goddesses. The goddesses are attributed to human existence, fertility, production, brightness, love, caring, healing, health, wealth, beauty, etc. But in the same societies, misfortunes are tagged to women. Women are stigmatized when there is misfortune. In very many traditional environments, if a child is sick, the cause of sickness is attributed to the mother. In my traditional environment, if a girl stays long before getting married, the mother is stigmatized. The unmarried ladies dare not come out to public places. If they do walk on the road, a popular question will be “who is her mother?” and she is not married?”
The same stigma goes worse for persons living with disabilities. Disabilities are always seen as curse falling on a family because of their ‘sin’. Deep down in the family, whatever that is responsible for the ‘misfortune’ is pushed to the mother. She takes responsibilities because she puts all resources and energy at her disposal to make sure the child survives. In my place, there is a popular saying that when a child is good, the father takes glory and when it is bad, the mother takes the blame or shame. This is not a mere saying, it is a practical reality.
Today my mother remains my best and closest friend because she refused to heed to advice to do away with me when I was a child and very sick. It was said that I bring shame to my family by living with disability. “Moreover she (me) is even a girl”. I vouch in my heart to reverse the thinking of society around me. I refuse to live a life of pity. I refuse to be pushed down by the situation of disability. I strive to live above challenges and circumstances that will not bring the best in me. I encourage and inspire a lot of people, caring for the less opportune persons through my various activities. I endeavour to contribute my knowledge and skills to improve life anywhere I am. Today I make my mother proud. She is proud of me and tells everybody about me. She sees me as her major source of happiness and will never agree to exchange me with any physically abled person. She faced and won every challenge in every fight she fought for my upliftment. Today she is a reference point in the area of disability and parenting. Yes, the woman (women) in my mother are living goddesses for change.
Celine Osukwu Divine Foundation for Disabled Persons, Nigeria.