December 3rd marks the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The year’s theme focuses on “empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality". On this occasion, Making It Work’s partner in Cameroon, the Gender and Disability Inclusive Development Group, shares the story of Nina. Nina’s story is one of empowerment and resilience.
Girls with disabilities face different challenges attributed to their impairment and inadequate economic means, to which must be added the discrimination brought by their gender. The combined effects of these discriminations affects their access to livelihood, health care and other services. In Cameroon, the Socio Economic Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (SEEPD) Program has been consistently working to ensure gender equality in its interventions. With a strong awareness of the challenges women and girls with disabilities face, the program targets women and girls with the aim to support them into gaining greater independence, especially financially. Nina received this support as a girl from the Gender and Disability Inclusive Development Group.
She was born with mobility impairment in a family of farmers. Growing up, Nina had to face stigma and insults from peers and community members. The very few resources her family had forced her to drop out of formal schooling after obtaining her First School Leaving Certificate at the end of Primary school education. In 2011, the SEEPD program intervened through the Community Based Rehabilitation Strategy (CBR). With support from the CBR, Nina spent 5 years learning Traditional Embroidery. As using a wheelchair meant she needed someone to bring her to and from the workshop, the SEEPD Program donated a tricycle to greatly facilitate her mobility. This newfound independence fueled her enthusiasm to finish her training and she graduated in 2016 with a Certificate in Traditional Embroidery.
Today, Nina is 25 year-old, and a successful owner of her own dress making workshop. She teaches her art to five apprentices and is perceived as a productive member of her community.
“My friends who do not have a disability even visit me and learn how to do dress making in my shop. Some even ask me to do their dresses for them”.
The difference between Nina’s life before the SEEPD intervention and now is striking. She can take care of her needs and is helping to pass on the skills she has learned to other community members. This gives her great joy and fulfillment:
“I am forever indebted to God most high for letting my family support me in my dream. I thank especially my mother who has sacrificed so much to make me succeed in my trade. I also thank the CBR team for their support first for enrolling me into the trade that has changed my life and providing me with a more suitable tricycle which enabled me to be persistent and consistent in learning my trade successfully. They have not stopped coming from time to time to see how my workshop is fairing. I am very thankful. Now, I make contributions in church activities; participate in social events like other women because I earn my own income. I am able to support my nieces and nephews in school and other members of the family give me respect. “
Asked about her aspirations, Nina says with a smile that she looks forward to getting married and starting her own family someday. She adds that she is also eager to commit more time to support other girls with disabilities gain control over their life, proving that, indeed, empowered women do empower other women.
This story is brought to you thanks to our country partner in Cameroon, the Gender and Disability Inclusive Development Group of the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services (CBCHS). Names have been changed for anonymity purposes.
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