Persons with Disabilities of Cameroon: Hilda

September 27th, 2016 by | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »

During the last seven months of my Peace Corps service, I am featuring photographs and stories of several persons with disabilities living in Cameroon. All the photos are part of a series called “Persons with Disabilities of Cameroon.” The goal of presenting photographs and their stories is to create better awareness about the plights that persons with disabilities face in a developing country. When I return to the US, I hope to exhibit this series in a gallery and publish a book to educate others about persons with disabilities living in developing countries as this topic is so rarely discussed in the media.

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Hilda Bih is one of the very few women with disabilities who live in upper middle class in Cameroon.  In spite of having a successful career as a radio journalist and Washington Mandela Fellow and having greater financial means than most women with disabilities, she still faces barriers.

“I have Muscular Dystrophy and I only got the diagnosis a year ago. It was first noticed when I was about four years old and was not able to figure out what the problem was. My parents only noticed that I was losing mobility as time went by but we had no answers from hospitals and other places. My parents noticed I was having trouble walking and holding things. I grew up becoming weaker and it got harder to walk. At a certain point people had to be carrying me to school. I started using a wheelchair at the age of about 14 years old. I have been on the wheelchair ever since. I consider myself quadriplegic because I have lost almost all use of my limbs.”

“I got the diagnosis when I had the chance to attend a conference organized by U.S. based organization known as the Speak Foundation which assists people with Muscular Dystrophy in 2015. During the conference, they provided genetic testing kits for those who have never had the diagnosis. And the results confirmed that I have it. I have been suspecting it because I have done personal research on the Internet and by reading books prior to it.”

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“One of the main barriers is still pretty much accessibility and getting around. Because as you notice the infrastructure is not properly adapted which means I am cut off from going to lots of places. Many buildings have staircases and elevators are practically almost non existent.  Accessibility is an issue.”

“As you noticed, I am not married. I think the principle reason is because in my country and context, women with disabilities are still considered liabilities. Such that it is hard for men to consider a woman with disability as potential wise or partners. People look at me and what they say is not that I am a successful, hardworking and beautiful and intelligent women. They see me as more of a woman with disability. So that makes it difficult to establish relationships and live a more fulfilling life as a woman.”

“And another thing is even through I am successful in my career, I still feel that I sometimes have to live below standard because the cost of living as a woman with disability is way higher. Since there is no support from the state, I have to fend for myself to meet all of the needs I have as a woman with disability. “

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2 Comments

Connie and Michael

September 27, 2016 at 4:29 pm

We feel so honored to have met Hilada and consider her a dear friend.

Sara Lou Tanner

September 27, 2016 at 5:51 pm

This is an inspiring story about a lady who against all odds has made a successful life even though she is disabled. She cares deeply for others and wants Cameroon to be a place that assists the disabled. There are so many needs there. In America we have come a long way in helping those who are wheelchair bound. To do this has cost money and Cameroon is a poorer country. Laws need to be passed to help those who are disabled in Cameroon. There are American organizations which do help some, like “Joni and Friends” ,with wheelchairs sent for the disabled. More help is needed and much more funding to make buildings accessible. Hilda had to be carried up stairs to go to work when she was a radio announcer in Yaounde. I know this lovely person and want the world to know she is making a difference in her life by helping others to see the need.

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