Susan Sherrard reflects on Disability Pride Week 2019.
Last week Te Pou supported a Kai and Korero event for Disability Pride Week. We had fifty people attend and entertainment provided by disabled people.
It was a time to come together and celebrate our disability culture and community. As part of our korero, young disabled women spoke about taking leadership roles as advocates in the sector.
Here are a couple of extracts from their speeches, in their own voices:
Niz Ali, said “The ability to work hard and achieve something in your life is a notion most people grow up with; however, as a disabled individual, I became accustomed to the words 'I can’t' before I learnt to say 'I can.'
"I recall spending the majority of my childhood listening to all the reasons I was unable to achieve what you would consider being the most fundamental of tasks.
"Now I’m 27-years-old and every single day I survive and last beyond the expectations of those who are still under the misconception that being disabled hinders your ability to live a successful, independent life.
"I’m the first out of my siblings to graduate from university with a Bachelors of Social Practice.
"I was so enormously honoured and humbled to be nominated by Te Pou and CCS Disability Action to sit on the organising committee for I.Lead, an initiative to give youth with disabilities a chance to speak up around the sectors problems in the Parliament House in Wellington!
This conference bought so much nourishment into my life because I was encouraged, motivated, and inspired all over again.
"It was a very optimistic moment for me as everyone bought their expertise and experience to the table and engaged in such valuable, constructive, and open exchanges throughout the two days of the conference to all the central points in government.
"I think sometimes the difficulty is that many life-changing ideas happen in the ground floor. By following a classic power pyramid, innovation can be kept from growing.
"At I.Lead, we disrupted that pyramid through reverse mentoring. It was a way to help higher ups learn from millennials. It also set an important precedent - breaking down the barriers between executives and disabled people.
"We rallied a culture that’s able to embrace change, take risks, and move forward through a united vision rather than power.
"This conference bought so much nourishment into my life because I was encouraged, motivated, and inspired all over again.
"Now I find myself more fascinated by politics and wondering if I can make a career out of it. Watch this space!”
Kim Clark said, “Hey everyone, my name is Kim and a bit about me growing up, in my house, 'you can’t' was never spoken over me.
"I have three older siblings and I was given the same opportunities. My parents went out of their way to include me in everything we as a family did and they brought me up saying that 'nothing is impossible'.
"With this mindset I've set my goals high. Recently I was able to complete my bachelor of management majoring in Accounting.
"Because I enjoyed the advocacy so much I now sit on Yes Disabilities youth board and from there we recently travelled down to Wellington being a part of leading New Zealand's first youth with disabilities conference called I.Lead. Youth from all over New Zealand attended the conference and it was held in Parliament.
"The purpose of I.Lead was to provide a platform that allows young people with disabilities to have their voices heard with regards to issues they face as well as provide them with the means to talk with government and sector decision-makers to find solutions to those issues.
I’m no longer afraid to speak because I have a voice.
"Since the conference I’ve become more confident in myself and is partly why I’m speaking today. I’m no longer afraid to speak because I have a voice.
"For me I feel like I can conquer the word. The conference has really empowered me to be all that I can be.
"My biggest dream is to live in a world where all people with disabilities and impairments are seen as having potential; to live in a world where all people believe that they too have value and feel empowered to be all that they can be.
"I just want to say we can all offer something to this world. It may be big or it may be small but as they say “even the smallest rock can make a ripple in the water.
Kia ora, nga mihi.”