My plans for the future are vast

Ashamed and depressed, Zerfe joined the Ethiopian Women with Disabilities National Association (EWDNA) in search of independence. Through meetings and training, she regained self-esteem and confidence, with dreams of becoming a journalist for women with disabilities.

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 “Before I came to EWDNA, my disability made me feel ashamed and depressed. I did some work but I didn’t know how to save. I was supported by somebody else and I couldn’t live independently or sustain myself. I had to accept the life I was leading: being supported, obeying others, doing what people told me, never doing what I wanted. I thought my disability was a curse.

I found out about EWDNA from my friend Mascara. We met at an assembly for people with disabilities, and she told me about EWDNA and brought me to the organisation. I used to live with my brother who wouldn’t let me come to EWDNA or attend meetings for people with disabilities. When I was living with him, I lived in hiding. Now we live our own separate lives.

The first time I came to EWDNA, it was so colourful. A coffee ceremony was taking place. I met the people who work there and told them I wanted to become a member. There is a coffee ceremony every 15 days, and at first I was very shy when participating in the ceremony. Whenever I used to talk, I would cry. When I started to attend frequently, I was asked to chair and then even become a secretary of the session. This gave me the opportunity to speak up and boost my confidence. There were also a lot trainings: EWDNA asks us individually what we are doing and provides relevant training for our needs. This has given me strength.

Women with disabilities face lots of problems. Incomes are very low, so women with disabilities are more vulnerable to things like abuse because they may be dependent. Some people want to use us; some for religious reasons, some think that we don’t have any rights, some women are forced to marry people like drunks or abusers. There’s a lack of awareness in the community. It’s because of this that women with disabilities often become beggars and face lots of problems.

Some people think that the most important thing from EWDNA is money, but for me it’s the ability to stand on my own. EWDNA has given me this: from different opportunities, trainings, the coffee ceremony and discussions. Every time there is a coffee ceremony, there are only women with disabilities there, so it is a free place to discuss issues. It’s better to talk about your problems with women than with men!

EWDNA is important because it provides us with confidence. When we come together, we can discuss our problems and get solutions from one another. EWDNA should continue for generations. When we are asked about where we are from, we normally mention our country. When people ask where we belong, we should also say EWDNA.

My plans for the future are vast. I want to be a journalist for people with disabilities. If that’s not successful, I want to be a successful business person and help myself and my country. I want women with disabilities to be strong. I want them to know that EWDNA is a place to come, be free and change their lives. I want women with disabilities to give importance to knowledge and other things they get from EWDNA. Life is more important than money. The community is not supportive, but at EWDNA we are told we can do what we want. I want EWDNA to be known by the media and other women to take up the opportunity. I owe a lot to EWDNA.”