Inspirational women #1: Josephine Namiriru

In the run up to International Women’s Day on March 8th we are posting the stories of some of our inspirational female Young Voices campaigners. Here’s Josephine’s story:

Portrait of Josephine in her wheelchairJosephine is the sixth of seven children from a family in Uganda. She was raised by her mother after her father died when she was three. Shortly before her father’s death, Josephine became disabled due to polio.

She started going to primary school when she was five. Life at school wasn’t easy. She was stared at and whispered about by her classmates, and felt very alone. But for her, learning was fun, and she was determined to succeed.

After primary school, her mother sadly broke it to her that her education would have to come to an end as she couldn’t afford to send her to secondary school. However, Josephine wasn’t ready to give up on her education. In their search for a way to keep Josephine at school, they came across the Nkokonjeru Cheshire Home, who agreed to sponsor Josephine with the help of the Lillian Foundation.

Her new life started when she joined the Cheshire Home at the age of 15. With the Home’s support, she went to secondary school. She went on to University to study Business Administration, sponsored by the Government, graduating in January 2014.

In 2009, she joined Leonard Cheshire Disability’s Young Voices, a global network of young campaigners with disabilities. She became an advocate of change with a burning desire to make a difference and reduce the difficulties faced by disabled children in school. She knew that while she kept going despite so many challenges, many children with disabilities would give up on education due to the many challenges they face at school.

Through Young Voices she has taken part in many successful campaigns and her confidence has greatly increased. She led a group of five young voices members who successfully lobbied for a ramp to be constructed for the Catholic Church in their community. At University she successfully ran for the post of Guild Representative Council for people with disabilities. She used this post to come up with new ways to get the voices of students with disabilities heard, such as an awareness raising week.

One of the best moments in her life was when she was given the opportunity through Leonard Cheshire Disability to come to London and work shadow Lynne Featherstone, the UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development. She was very inspired to meet with someone who shared her passion for disability and gender issues. The experience has motivated her even more to strive to achieve great things and make a difference for women and people with disabilities in Uganda and around the world.

Josephine is very happy with what she has achieved so far. But she feels that her journey has just started, and she hopes to continue her studies, specialising in gender. Her message to all women on International Women’s Day, especially for those with disabilities is:

“It is possible; it only takes passion, determination, persistence and prayer. You can become that important figure that you have admired all your life. The challenges that you meet along the way can always be overcome.”