“I faced two types of discrimination: as a woman and a woman with a disability”

Majdeh, a young woman from Gaza, describes the difficulties she faced growing up with a visual impairment and how MAP’s partner the Nusirat Rehabilitation and Social Training Association supported her to take a leading role in advocating for the rights of people with disabilities.

I had a really tough childhood. I felt different. When I was six, I lost vision in my right eye. My brother and sister had been fighting, and a broom collided with my eye.

After the accident, my peers looked down on me and called me horrible names. Even at the age of six people asked how I would get married and kept saying they didn’t think I could. I always felt like I was cornered in every aspect of my life. Extended family criticised my parents. The pressure from society was extremely painful, psychologically. I tried to hide this because I didn’t want to upset my parents, they’re my biggest supporters.

At school they always sat me on the first row in class, but I always thought maybe I want to choose another row. I felt like I lacked the power to make a decision. It was hard for me to follow the curriculum. For example, it was really hard for me to read as the font was so small.

Most people assumed I would drop out. But I felt pressure to challenge society and was always top of my class. Because it was hard for me to read, I made sure I concentrated 100% to understand everything and memorise as much as possible. During all the school levels, I achieved full marks, 100%, in my studies and since then I knew that I had passion and ambition to be something

Despite all my achievements, the societal pressures continued. I faced two types of discrimination, first as a woman and then as a woman with a disability. As I was finishing school, people were saying “she’s almost a woman, how will she get married and have children?” I didn’t want to think about their negative comments, I only wanted to be an achiever.

At University I studied Education and Arabic and throughout people continued asking “how will she get married?”

In 2012, while studying Arabic at university, I joined the Inclusive and Accessible Society for All project which was implemented by Nusirat. Before joining, I didn’t know anything about disability rights and the discrimination and difficulties that people with disabilities face. This was a huge turning point in my life, I started learning about my rights and began to raise awareness.

I was a trainee with the project  and then joined their committee and have been with them for six years now. During these years I have developed a lot on a personal and social level.

My dad had a short-term contract through a job creation scheme and it was cut short due to the economic situation. I had to be independent and take care of myself financially. I started working as a trainer and facilitator with the project and provide training lectures with Humanity and Inclusion for the community members. I also worked as a teacher in a special needs school and a facilitator for advocacy lectures for people with disabilities.

On the issue of marriage, I faced many refusals from potential parents-in-law. One mother told me, “how will my son marry someone that sees in only one eye?” Many men wanted to marry me, but their parents refused. In this society it’s the parents who have the final decision.

I married when I was 23 and have a beautiful nine-month-old daughter. When I got married my parents-in-law thought they did me a favour. My husband is very supportive.

I am the breadwinner of my family. My husband only has seasonal work, like olive picking. My work is all freelance, so I don’t have certainty and my roles are always temporary. After the current project I am working on ends, I am not sure what I will do, but I want to prove myself and find a good opportunity.

I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, I am now a professional trainer for promoting the rights of people with disabilities in Gaza. Having lived and experienced such pain and hardship, I am a strong ambassador for disability rights. I want to stress that Nusirat is where I started, it is where I flourished and developed many skills.

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