Look at me women
Women with disabilities often encounter prejudice and negative attitudes or have many barriers to conquer on their journey to achieve success and reach their life goals. The world around us loudly shouts what physical beauty should look like and that anything less than this is not worthy.
The focus is much more on the physical beauty than on the inner beauty and it omits to share the courage of disabled women and women in general. Don’t get me wrong, of course women with disabilities also enjoy looking good and we do see ourselves as beautiful – but as long as we do not ONLY use the physical to feel happy and fulfilled. We feel comfortable in our own skin and have learnt to accept ourselves and to live life fully.
In 2008 Marlene le Roux, wanted to perceptions with her book, called “Look at me”. This book showcases the real life stories of 23 courageous, strong and sensual women with various disabilities in South Africa. Some of the women were born with a disability, others was disabled through an accident or illness later in life. ‘I realised from a young age that society puts people with disabilities in a box with an “ag shame” attitude and I felt I wanted to celebrate who I am – disability and all.’ ‘I realised that only a person with a disability can change the mindset of society.
Marlene says that the photographs and stories allow women to reflect on their challenges and their inner journey to personal self-mastery.
Here are a few pictures and brief stories of women that is featured in the “Look at me” book.
BONITA - VISUALLY IMPAIRED
DONNA - BORN WITH NO RIGHT HAND
REINETTE - VISUALLY IMPAIRED
MASINGITA - CEREBRAL PALSY
At birth a lack of oxygen resulted in my disability. I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
I was a happy child because my parents treated me like any other child. I was expected to do household chores and other things that come with the responsibility o being a firstborn child.
It was easier for me to be around children than adults, because the children didn’t discriminate against me and they saw me as one of them. In the end, my disability was harder on my parents than it was on me.
When I won the Shoprite/Checkers Woman of the Year Award in 2004, doors started to open or me The battle or us has only been halon because the ultimate achievement would be when people change their attitudes towards people with disabilities. I still feel that people with disabilities are faced with twice the amount of obstacles. They are reminded daily that they are different from others. Decisions are still made for us and I would like to see that change.
In the last five years, I have seen myself grow into a very powerful business woman, but one who will never forget where she came from. One who will strive to always help others, never forgetting that she herself is blessed.
SHELLEY - PARAPLEGIC
At the age of 24, I woke up to find myself in hospital with empty walls and broken dreams. I was just another victim of the notorious taxi wars in South Africa. Long before the doctors had the courage to admit it, my body had already told me: I was paralysed from the waist down.
I have come to realise that unless we (as people with disabilities) are able to be the maker of our own images, our lives will constantly be depicted on the basis of the assumptions others hold of who we are, how we live, how we love.
Therefore, I am a firm believer in positive thinking and I have witnessed its full power in my life. I want to re-imagine my imagination, create a different way of seeing, writing, being. I am not interested in being like everybody else. I find that rather dull actually.
I know about this dance of living. This dance is not with the feet. This dance is with the heart. And when I dance with the heart, music comes through me.
Music is me. And then all that I am, is the dance.
BARENICE - CEREBRAL PALSY
At the age of two I could still not walk and I was referred to the Red Cross Hospital for physiotherapy. I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
I realised this would mean a life of being treated differently, like the day I told my aunt about my dreams for the future. One of which was to get married.
When she heard this, she said: ‘What man would want to marry someone like you?’ I was shocked and could not believe that she could be so cruel and heartless.
Luckily her words were untrue. I fell in love with a wonderful man. I knew that he was the man that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.
We were engaged for three years before we got married. We are blessed with three beautiful children.
Becoming a mother has completed my journey into womanhood…