Guinea: "My disability does not prevent my happiness"

People with disabilities face many obstacles in their daily personal and professional life. These obstacles and constraints are largely fuelled by a general lack of knowledge about disabilities and the benefits offered by an inclusive society.

28-year-old Massoud has been unable to walk since she was five. Determined not to be held back by negative stereotypes and prejudice, she graduated from university and with Plan International’s support, has gone on to set up her own NGO to fight for the rights of people with disabilities.

“It was at the age of five that I became disabled following an accident. For two years my parents fought for me to regain my health, but I could not stand upright. During this time my siblings went to school, but I just had to stay at home. I felt jealous and I asked my parents to send me to school too, but because of my disability, my father asked me to stay at home.

Eventually I told him if you really love me, let me go to school like the others, because it is not my head that is affected it’s my legs, so help me find my way back to school. That's when he found the courage to send me to school.

Despite my parents' poverty, they managed to cover all the costs of my education, all the way to university. At university, my financial situation was very poor because I had to pay for my rent, transport costs and books. I had no one to help me and I wanted to get my degree at all costs.

My uncle came to see me to tell me that he had heard about an NGO that helped people in need, he told me to write a request for funding to be able to complete my studies because my means were very limited. I filled in the application and gave it to my uncle to submit it to Plan International Guinea.

After several months of waiting, one day the Country Director called me. He greeted me and asked: is this Massoud? I said yes, then he asked if it was me who had filed a request to Plan International. I jumped for joy when I answered yes. Then he asked me if I was interested in doing an internship at Plan International. I said I would be happy to do so. He put me in touch with the human resources manager to make an appointment. That's how I came to Plan International for the first time as an intern.

After my internship, I went home. A few months later, a lady I worked with at Plan International with called me to inform me about the opening of a receptionist position, she encouraged me to apply and I was selected.

After receiving this good news, I phoned to my father with tears in my eyes. He said to me, my daughter, you were right, if I hadn't listened to you, I would have regretted it for the rest of my life, because you promised me you would do well and you kept your promise. You have sisters and brothers who are doing well, but they couldn't keep up with you, even with your disability, you were able to finish your studies. I am proud of you, my daughter

After five years as a receptionist at the Plan International Guinea office, I remembered the goal I had set myself from a very young age, which was to create a local NGO for disabled people to raise awareness and help them take charge of their lives.

Today, this dream has become reality. I was able to set up my own NGO called the Organisation de Secours aux Handicapés de Guinée (OSH-Guinea) which I chair myself. Plan International Guinea has encouraged and supported me in this objective.

OSH-Guinea's ambition is to improve the living conditions of disabled people, helping them become autonomous and independent and ensuring they can participate fully in the country's development process. We empower people with disabilities and work with communities to take action against exclusion and discrimination.

We influence local, national and global strategies and policies through our staff, our experience and our knowledge of the lived realities of people with disabilities. We help people with disabilities achieve autonomy and give them the opportunity to access education, lead change in their society, empower themselves, make decisions about their own lives and live free from discrimination.

I have been very strong since I was a young child. I told myself that to be independent in the future, I would have to fight to overcome all the negative stereotypes. Often people see my wheelchair and think I am sad or do not enjoy life, so I fight every day to contradict these prejudices and show others that my disability does not prevent my happiness.

I always tell people that life is a struggle, because there will always be obstacles. If I let my physical condition hold me back, then I would not be at this stage in my life today.”

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