Hi, my name is Najeeba Shaheen. Today, I am going to tell you my story, I hope you are excited to read it. I was born and brought up in a small village known as Ganish in Hunza. I did my schooling till 14th standard from Hunza. I moved to Islamabad for MSC in Anthropology, now I am awaiting my M.Phil. test result.
You would be thinking where her real story is, well hold your horses, I am about to tell you. Story goes back to when I was just an infant. I am born with Porphyria, which is, a group of liver disorders in which substances called porphyrins build up in the body, negatively affecting the skin or nervous system. In my case it has affected my skin as well as my hands. My hands hurt a lot and swell when I do strenuous work.
I have been working with GB GWM since its inception. I was referred to this organization by one of my friends. Currently, I am working as an elected member with GB GWM. I have always been passionate about helping others. Volunteerism is something where you are doing something bigger than yourself, serving a higher purpose. I have been to the field with GB GWM once or twice, the contentment you get when you serve people is unexplainable.
When I was a toddler, my mother was told not to admit me in a school; according to them I was a weak kid and might die soon. I still remember there was a neighbor of ours who used to take me in her lap and teach me how to write, may Allah bless her soul.
People would stare at me for I was not like them, they would tell me “You cannot do anything with these little hands of yours.” I remember saying “With these tiny hands of mine I can turn the Earth upside down” in return. Did these comments shatter my confidence? Yes, they did, and I suffered for long but not anymore.
During 9th or 10th standard, I realized that not a single soul on this earth is free of problems, I should be thankful for the blessings bestowed by Allah on me. Finally, I accepted myself for good and promised myself not to let others’ words hurt me anymore. I had to be strong because I wanted to fulfill my parent’s dreams, I wanted to do something for my parents. Their faith in me never wavered even for a single moment for having a disability, how can I disappoint them?
I have been blessed with good friends throughout my education, they offered their help whenever I needed it. On the other hand, teachers were not sensitive towards my needs. I have been a slow writer; my hand usually hurts due to which I cannot keep up my writing pace. During exams, teachers would not listen to my plea and some teachers used to take the answer sheet from me first. Suffice to say that our teachers need disability sensitization workshops. There was only one instance, when, a teacher was considerate enough to provide me an extra chair as I am left-handed as well.
Now, when I am paving a future path for myself, and whenever I come across the people who used to mock me although they have not apologized to this day, but I can see the envy on their faces. Oh, and also, I, who was invisible to them previously, now I’m their favorite. I wish people could be a little gentle to PWDs. If they do not want to sympathize with us, they should not which is fine. But someone should not make fun of others just because they look or function differently. The things they say sometimes leave scars, which stay with us all our lives.
My parents kept my spirits high all this time, my mother used to challenge me by saying “When I was your age, I did this, I did that” her words positively reinforced me to push my limits and do everything from home chores to getting education. Had she listened to others; I would have been at my home doing nothing which were people’s intentions for me while I was growing up.
There is a specific quota for PWDs, which is not implemented rigorously, somehow if it is enforced then necessary adjustments are not made for PWDs at workplace or in universities. Speaking from my experience, I applied to a university on quota for PWDs, administration informed me there is no such thing.
For the non-disabled people, I would say not to make fun of PWDs, be friends with them and try to learn their problems. That is the only way we can make a sustainable and inclusive society for all.
As to my fellow PWDs, I would like to say, “Don’t be dishearten by your struggles, Allah has given us this life to serve a higher purpose and we should be thankful for this life.”
At last, I would like to say never ever judge someone by his/her looks, you can never know the fire within them. And one more thing, if you cannot do something good, stay quiet.