As women and women with disabilities, we embrace our beauty, womanhood, sexuality, sensuality and motherhood so that we can become the best that we can be. We have learnt to face our challenges and to tackle it head on so that each challenge or obstacle becomes a victory. Despite having a disability, we are indeed capable of having a good marriage, having a job and career, being successful business women and entrepreneurs, having children, being a competent mother and being a good lover, wife and sister.
We are okay with who we are and because of this we feel quite comfortable in our own skin. We embrace our physical beauty and enjoy being and looking the best that we can. We also embrace our inner beauty as this exposes our strength, courage, tenacity, resilience and determination. This enables us to be confident and we are able to use these traits to empower women and all other persons with disabilities to lift their heads high and to chase their dreams and goals, however difficult it might seem at times.
We are passionate about living life to the fullest – despite having to face double barriers quite often. Double barriers that say that “you are disabled” and “you are a woman” meaning “you belong to the weaker sex, so therefore you are less of a person and not able to rise to the occasion.”
In general, women in particular as well as all persons with disabilities (men, women and children) are from the vulnerable groups and often face challenges daily such as discrimination, prejudice, abuse and unfair treatment in their ongoing battle for inclusion in mainstream society. Often people’s and society’s unwritten rules and laws tells us we cannot and should not do certain things, but we choose to ignore this as only we ourselves can decide what we can or cannot do. And we choose a CAN DO attitude, full of zest for life which enables us to achieve simple as well as great things.
Women’s Achievement Network for Disability is an initiative from Professional Disability Services, a non-profit company that was started in 2006. The purpose of this company is to highlight the challenges of women and persons with disabilities and to connect them to resources so that they can empower themselves continuously to be able to contribute on an economical level.
Why did we create the WAND e-initiative?
In 2008, Marlene le Roux compiled a book of 23 women with disabilities. The Look at me book focusses on disabled women’s journeys and how they came to self-acceptance. Marlene’s main aim was to raise the visibility of disabled women in South Africa and to challenge the myths that society have towards disabled women’s sensuality and sexuality. The book was hugely successful and sold out within a few months after it was launched. The life stories of Marlene and Karen Smit also features in the book.
The success of the Look at me book made us realize that we need to continue our journey of raising the profile of disabled women. The challenges and achievements of women with disabilities continue to remain invisible and in some communities disabled women are referred to as “erased” women.
There is a general belief that women with disabilities are asexual, are unable to have a good marriage and unable to bear children. It is thought that women with disabilities are not beautiful, cannot be successful business women and entrepreneurs, and are not competent to be mothers and wives. Because of the these beliefs, many disabled girls and women experience barriers which prevent them from accessing and participating in educational opportunities, employment, safety and security measures, maternal healthcare, wellness and financial opportunities/resources.
In order to debunk these myths and beliefs, we created this e-initiative so that it can serve as a platform whereby disabled women’s stories/successes/challenges can be made visible.
The WAND e-initiative will also showcase success stories of Organisations for the Disabled as they work closely with women and all disabled persons in communities. These organisations have first-hand experience of the struggles and achievements of disabled women.