A neighbor once told to my mom that there was no space for people with disabilities after graduation, that I should stay home to learn sewing, embroidering, or doing housework.
Handiwork and household jobs were popular for girls with disabilities in the 1990s, and I recognized many people with disabilities in general stopped their education because of discrimination. I tried to convince my parents to give me an opportunity to study further and expressed my expectation to live independently. It took me long time to get an approval from my parents.
This decision changed my life because the more I walked into the world, the more challenges I had fighting against social norms and social injustice.
I did not stop learning from friends with disabilities in the Asia region about breaking physical and attitude barriers in my country. We built a network with disabled organizations and non-profit organizations working in disability issues to organize disability awareness campaigns and capacity building trainings for people with disabilities, which enhanced their abilities to achieve goals of their lives. Many workshops — which regarded love and marriage, accessible schools, transportations, employment, and policies related to disability — attracted journalists. As a result, barriers between people with and without disabilities have been [reduced] gradually. The number of people with disabilities who go to school and have jobs is higher than it was in the past.
I was so lucky to attend the Women’s Institute on Leadership and Disability (WILD) held by MIUSA in 2006. I became aware of the restricted opportunities of women and girls with disabilities and nursed a dream to do something for them. One year later, I was the project coordinator on leadership training for women with disabilities in Hochiminh City, funded by the Ford Foundation.
I have a meaningful life thanks to those who give me hope and opportunities to walk through the world. I hope people with disabilities and parents who have children with disabilities will not be disappointed if “God has appointed a destiny for you.”