Inspirational women #4: Dianne

This week we have been posting stories of inspirational female Young Voices campaigners to mark International Women’s Day. Here’s Dianne’s story:

Dianne standing in the street with her guitar, next to her crutchesMy name is Dianne. I am 21 years old and I come from the Philippines. My parents both died when I was young. At the age of 11 I was diagnosed with bone cancer. My left leg had to be amputated and I spent two years in hospital.

Accepting my parents’ death and facing cancer at a very young age made my childhood life harder. I had to stop studying for a year because of emotional depression. There were times that I felt like giving up the fight for life. But with the help of a Belgian missionary sister, I was able to recover and cope with my disability. I changed my outlook on life, and began to believe that any form of disability should not stop you achieving what you want to achieve. I continued studying and valued education much more. I decided I wanted to strive hard and inspire people, especially, cancer patients and people with disabilities.

I now consider myself an advocate of people with disabilities and am deeply involved in many advocacy campaigns through Leonard Cheshire Young Voices. I am also passionate about music and I am a member of Musicability, a group of young and talented musicians who are all campaigners with Young Voices.

In September 2012, I was selected as the official young person with a disability delegate from the Philippines to attend and speak at the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities International Conference held at the UN Headquarters in New York City, USA. Last November I was again honored to represent the Philippines and Young Voices in the 2013 European Development Days held in Brussels, Belgium. There, I talked about the achievements and initiatives of the young people with disabilities and how we should be included in international development.

Since I got cancer, every day of my life has been really a miracle. I strongly believe that God has blessed me to live longer, survive the obstacles and trials in life and inspire many people. My life has been journey and I truly appreciate its meaning and value through the love and support of all the people around me and those who believe in my abilities.

Inspirational women #3: Ashura

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 Ashura’s story:

Ashura holding a folder standing in front of a Leonard Cheshire Disability logoAshura is 21 years old and has a hearing impairment. She recently attained a Diploma in Law from Inoorero University Nairobi. An ambitious lawyer in the making, she is a passionate advocate for the rights of people with hearing impairments and other disabilities in Kenya.

She has taken part in many campaigning activities, including leading a group of Young Voices campaigners to visit the Communication Commission of Kenya and advocate for sign language interpretation services during news segments on television. She also ensured that during the Kenya at 50 years celebrations there was a professional interpreter in the stadium and in local television stations.

Ashura was recently crowned as Miss Deaf Kenya 2013/2014. She has been travelling around the country sharing information on disability and assuring young girls that disability should not come in the way of achieving their dreams.

Last August, Ashura travelled to London to work shadow Cherie Blair QC. This opportunity came about as a result of a letter from our Chief Executive, Clare Pelham, who wrote to Cherie Blair and a number of other inspirational women in the UK on International Women’s Day last year, asking if it would be possible for a young disabled woman to shadow them for a day.

Ashura, as the only Deaf law student at her university in Nairobi, was excited about meeting with a prominent barrister with so much experience of human rights law. She said: “Cherie told me that nothing should be done about disability without involving people with disabilities”.

Posted in Kenya and tagged ,

Inspirational women #2: Delisa

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 Delisa’s story:

“The Tsunami was like a bad dream”, says Delisa as she tells her story about the terrible event that changed her life when she was seven years old.

Delisa sitting on some steps holding some crutches and a prosthetic leg“On December 26 2004, I was with my mother and sister at our home near the beach in Aceh Besar, near Banda Aceh. Suddenly, a ferocious wind hit my house. I thought it was a huge earthquake. I saw water exploding from the sea and I heard a roaring sound like I had never heard before. I yelled to my mother and then everything went dark.”

Delisa was swept away by the water. When a volunteer found her, she was lying motionless, her legs and arms were broken, but she was still breathing. She was brought to the nearest hospital. The medical team there had to amputate her right leg.

Her mother and her sister were both lost in the Tsunami. Her father and everyone around her motived her to survive and continue with her life. Now 16, she is a senior high school student at a well-known school in Banda Aceh.

In 2013, Delisa joined Leonard Cheshire Young Voices Indonesia to learn more about the rights of young people with disabilities. Through Young Voices she has made many new friends and her confidence has greatly increased, especially in public speaking. As a Tsunami survivor she is invited to many events to tell her story of survival. She is particularly passionate about education, and she uses these events to talk about the obstacles which she and other children with disabilities experience at school, including inaccessible buildings and learning resources.

She says: “I have come a long way as a Tsunami survivor in Aceh. I will not stop here, and I am going to keep fighting for my dreams to make my father proud of me.”

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.”