Empowering a Journey to Self-Acceptance

Stories Of Change
Ms. Mildred Atieno raising her concern on disability mainstreaming during a DPGs meeting in Gem- Siaya County.

By Faustine Chepchichir

Have you ever found yourself struggling to accept something about yourself? Is it an experience that doesn’t feel right? May be you are trapped in between genders and you don’t know which one to associate with. May be it’s just a medical condition or rare disease and you postulate it as witchcraft or the work of the devil despite numerous affirmation from doctors. If you’ve ever been frustrated and lived in denial sometimes in your life, just know you are not alone.

For Gilphine Atieno Omondi having a disability was something she could not fathom. For 19 years, most especially during her teenage life, accepting her condition was never bound to happen! She was adamant and nothing could be done about it.

After finishing high school in 2018, Gilphine was inducted into Connecting the Dots project by the secretary of Ugunja Disability Network. As a young girl, fresh from high school, she was curious to learn and participate in the project training not knowing that would be a life-changing experience for her.

Connecting the Dots is a UKAID funded implemented under the Deepening Democracy Programme (DDP) in Siaya County. This project aims at effective engagement of youth with disabilities in governance processes and economic opportunities

I met the 20–year-old girl during a Disability Person Groups (DPGs) training in Gem Sub-county. She is of dark complexion, average height and very charming. Just by looking at her, it’s very hard to know that she has a disability. We engage in a chit-chat after the training and this is how it goes.

According to Gilphine, her parents realized about her condition when she was a toddler which they presumed to have been caused by wrong immunization. The sad reality about her condition drowned on her at the age of 15 but despite all the glaring evidence she still refuted.

She painfully recounts how she was unable to accept her condition despite the numerous times it hindered her from conducting her duties to the fullest back in high school. “I never accepted that I had a disability and I was never going to. For me being disabled was something I could not imagine,” said Gilphine

“Sometimes in school, I was not able to wash my uniforms or even do the simple tasks assigned to us. My hand could get extremely cold and unable to touch a thing. Luckily for me, my classmates and roommates were very supportive, they came to my aid during my times of need,” said Gilphine

Gilphine said that the training transformed her life and her perception towards disability. She added that she was trained on Self-esteem skills which renewed her discernment towards disability and thus able to accept her condition.

“Attitude is altitude. I thought having a disability is the worst thing that could ever happen to a person. Through ANDY’s training I was able to meet other youth with disabilities who are thriving in adversity. I also realized that disability is just a matter of perception,” said Gilphine.

The young gal who has physical disability took it upon herself to enlighten people from her village about stigma and prejudice associated with disability and the need for youth with disability who are hiding in their homes to come out.

Ms. Mildred Atieno going through her phone after a DPG meeting in Gem Sub-County Siaya.

“As a society, we need to demystify disability. In order to do that I started going round my village to create awareness on disability. Some people are suffering in silence yet disability is all about the mindset. Sometimes it’s very hectic but I derive joy in touching a person’s life. So far I have been able to convince  5 youth with disability to come out of their cocoon and join disabled person groups where they can be empowered just like me,” said an optimistic Gilphine.

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