3 girls who refuse to let their disabilities define them!

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Every child has the right to attend school. Yet children with disabilities in developing countries face discrimination and tremendous barriers to participating in school, work and society. Meet 3 girls who’re overcoming these barriers, breaking down stigmas and not letting their disabilities define them!

1. Finding a way to be heard: Meet Sofia from Honduras

A family of six standing in front of their home.

Sofia, 16, (centre) with her family.

When Sofia, 16, was an infant, her mom noticed that she didn’t react to her voice. After seeking medical attention, they learned Sofia had a physical disability that resulted in hearing loss.

Unable to afford the cost of a hearing aid, Sofia’s family had to fundraise within the community to purchase one. At the age of 10, Sofia was able to hear and speak for the first time.

With Plan’s support, Sofia was able to go to school where she learned to read and write. Now Sofia’s notebook is full of drawings and letters – and she can finally communicate with others! While Sofia continues to face certain challenges in her day-to-day life, she’s empowered with education and dreams of becoming a teacher to help other children learn to read and write.

2. Breaking down barriers: Meet Carmelinda from Timor-Leste

A teacher helping a student in class.

Carmelinda, 14, is happy to be in school.

Children with disabilities in Timor-Leste are often discriminated against and kept out of school due to a perception that they’re not capable of studying and getting an education.

Born with a limp, 14-year-old Carmelinda is challenging these false perceptions by attending school and studying hard to reach her goals! She’s also showing her community that she can achieve just as much as her able-bodied peers.

Carmelinda isn’t fighting this fight alone – change is happening in her community.  Recently, 30 teachers attended Plan’s inclusive education training and learned a rights-based approach to working with children with disabilities. Teachers gained special skills to work with a variety of disabilities and learned how to develop appropriate teaching materials, helping to ensure all children reach their full potential.

3. Speaking up for others: Meet Chantale from Haiti

Portrait of a young woman looking into the camera.

Chantale, 28, is a teacher and advocate for the rights of girls with disabilities.

For over 19 years, Chantale, 28, has lived with a physical disability that prevents her from walking. “I understand that I live with a physical disability but I consider myself a normal person,” she says.

As a teacher, Chantale’s work in the classroom has taught her that education is essential for girls, especially girls with disabilities, because it helps them achieve their full potential. “I support Plan’s Because I am a Girl campaign and I encourage parents to send their children to school,” says Chantale. “Even if they are disabled, they should be encouraged to participate in their communities – people often forget that persons with disabilities should enjoy the same rights as they do.”

Outspoken about the rights of girls and people living with disabilities, Chantale fights for the rights of disabled girls in Haiti and raises awareness about their unique needs during disasters.

“When it comes to disasters, the state as well as the community must support disabled people, especially disabled girls,” says Chantale. “We need to think about the safety of children with disabilities at large, particularly girls, in times of disaster.”

Through Plan’s disability inclusion programs, things are changing for children and their families around the world! With support from Plan, their families and their entire communities, girls like Chantale, Sofia and Carmelinda, and others living with disabilities, will show the world that everyone has the right to define their own lives and create a brighter future!

Help children with disabilities

Through Plan Canada’s Gifts of Hope that helps children with disabilities, you can break barriers and create inclusive, accessible environments to ensure children living with disabilities, like Chantale, Sofia and Carmelinda, receive the support they need to thrive!