“I would probably be able to see if I lived somewhere else”

Bader, a 35-year-old man living in Gaza, describes losing his vision after being unable to access adequate health care and how as a facilitator with MAP’s partner, the Nusirat Rehabilitation and Social Training Association, he is advocating for the rights of people with disabilities.

I was born with no vision in one eye, but was lucky enough to see the world and colours in the other eye for 24 years. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in History and Archeology and had a strong passion for photographing archeological sites. Sadly, this passion is no longer possible. I was also the number one national champion for several short distance running competitions, the long jump and gymnastics. I managed to achieve a lot before the blood pressure in my right eye started increasing.

I tried to seek the needed medical treatment in Gaza, but unfortunately, there were no adequate specialised eye care services. I also tried to seek medical referral outside Gaza, but the Israeli authorities refused my travel permit for apparent security reasons. As a result, I had no option but to witness my eyesight diminish each day until I completely lost sight in 2008. It is painful to know that, most probably, I would still be able to see if I were living somewhere else.

When I was 28 I got married and I am the father of a six-year-old daughter and four-year-old son. As a human being in Gaza, whether with a disability or not, you have a very low chance of generating a sustainable income. For people like me, we have an almost zero employment opportunity. I am the breadwinner of my family, and until now, I only managed to get short-term contracts every now and then. I worked for 11 months as a social studies teacher in a school for people with disabilities. In 2017, I joined MAP’s partner Nusirat and I managed to work with them as a facilitator until now. On average, my monthly income is around $200.

My experience at Nusirat has been eye opening. In one workshop I was facilitating, there were people with hearing impairments, so imagine how hard it was for someone like me -with a visual impairment- to give a lecture to people with hearing impairments. It was successful with the help of a sign language interpreter. I have learnt a lot and gained a lot of experience and skills through my involvement in the project.

I also initiated an advocacy campaign with the hashtag #WeAreAlike – to raise awareness of the rights of people with disabilities in Gaza. The most important achievement was that we unified people with a range of different disabilities to demand their equal rights in society. The idea of the advocacy campaign came from the need for social recognition of the rights of people with disabilities. We live in a society that does not recognise us as equal citizens. We wanted this campaign to send a message that people with disabilities have rights and they can be as productive as anyone in society if they are given the chance. The campaign was a reminder that our society is not doing us a favour by recognising our rights. On the contrary, it is the duty of our society to recognise the rights of all people and to provide the needed support and adaptations for everyone to reach their highest potential.

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