I have come to understand that I can stand on my own

As a young woman with a disability, Tafetu experienced hardship and stigma – struggling to find a stable job and place to live, she felt excluded by society. Since discovering Womankind partner Ethiopian Women with Disabilities National Association (EWDNA), she now lives independently and shares her knowledge and skills with other women, advocating for the true potential of women with disabilities.

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“Women with disabilities in Ethiopia face many problems. They don’t have access to livelihoods, the infrastructure is not suitable, they are discriminated against, and they don’t have proper support. For many, there is no one who understands them because there are no translators. It is even harder in the countryside than in the city, as no one even speaks sign language. In many situations, women with disabilities are locked in their homes because of their family’s negative attitudes towards them.

Before I found EWDNA, I faced a lot of problems - I didn’t have a place to live, I didn’t have a job, and there were no relatives to support me. I lived in a government orphanage from 1985, and when I left I got some training in making sculptures out of glass and some startup funds. I asked an uncle for a place to live, but he said no. For 5 years I worked liked this – alone, and without support. There were lots of challenges in my life.

I found out about EWDNA from a friend; she searched hard to find an association for women with disabilities. She knew another woman with a disability who knew of EWDNA. This was 9 years ago! I feel so happy now that I have found EWDNA, and have made so many friends. Now, whenever I see women with a disability, I want to bring them into EWDNA.

After joining EWDNA, I gained so much knowledge and benefits. I have come to understand that I can stand on my own; I learned how to read, sign language and received training in dry food preparation. EWDNA also provided me with essential training on my rights. They have trained me in skills such as literacy and business, helped me access credit and savings, and taught me about sexual and reproductive health and rights and HIV/AIDS. As well, every 15 days there is a coffee ceremony here where we all get together. I feel that the biggest thing these trainings have taught me is how to save – I had no idea how to do that before. Now I am running my own business selling fried potatoes, biscuits and clothes.

In the future, I would like to preach about the capabilities of women with disabilities to the whole country; I want to tell them all about our potential! I would even like to raise children with disabilities, but since I don’t have the capacity I would like to encourage other women to do so. In my village there was a child with a hearing impairment; he stopped going to school after the 2nd grade. This is something I would also like to change – to help people like him find someone to connect with.

I would like everyone with a disability to be part of an organisation like EWDNA, to access opportunities and to be independent. EWDNA is really important as it provides knowledge to the whole community, and raises awareness of the struggles faced by women with disabilities. I would like to be able to pass on the knowledge I have gained here to other women with disabilities. I think there is hope for change.”