By Funmi Ajumobi
36 years old Farida Nana Efua Bedwei was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and spent most of her childhood in Dominica, Grenada and the U.K. before the family moved to Ghana when she was nine. She suffered from cerebral palsy when she was 10 days old, and home-schooled by her mother until she was 12 years old when she entered mainstream school.
To the surprise of all, she rose to become one of the top software engineers with over 16 years experience in building mobile and enterprise applications, while she also has extensive knowledge in architecture and deploying mobile VAS services and banking applications for the micro-finance industry in Ghana.
Farida was one of the guest speakers at the First International Conference on Disabilities which focused on health, education, social welfare and employment for People With Disabilities, PWDs. At the conference, held last week at Civic Centre, Lagos, she received a standing ovation after her session during which she shared her life experiences and how she rose to stardom with delegates that comprised PWDs, caregivers policy makers.
Farida said PWDs should know what they want and not tell employers to give them anything that is available. “Don’t ask for job on the basis of the thinking that you are nobody. Get the necessary requirement and never think that a job will be given to you just on the basis of your disability. Get the necessary requirement and see if any company will reject you”, she admonished.
Farida cited example of her commitment to work to prove to her employers that her disability will not reduce her to an object of pity when she was joining other workers to climb the staircase to her office whenever the elevator was not working. She said disability does not mean organisations should adopt PWDs but, it should make it easy for them when they are qualified for the job.
“If you are asking government and employers to level the ground for you, just play your part, do your job”, she stated. Farida however implored government to create a tax relief system which people employing PWDs can benefit from and encourage them to employ more. Mrs Helen Lydia Bedwei, also spoke at the occasion. Her words to the mothers who have children with disabilities:
“The most important thing is that mothers need to be focused. At the initial stage when it dawned on me that my daughter had cerebral palsy at 10days old, I was devastated and didn’t know how I will live with it. My mother told me that God chose me out of thousands of mothers out there to look after the child and that if I did a good job, God will bless.
After that day, I took courage and began the work. All I wanted was that my child should be like every other child: Move around, do things and learn. I started teaching her, putting it in mind that she could not miss out in not being able to walk and also lose out in education.
“Any time I visited the physiotherapy, I was always taking picture of the way they did it and when I get home, I will paste it on the wall and do it. I trained her for 12 years at home but only allowed her to go to mainstream school so that she could have friends and I made sure I got a school where the terrain wasn’t rough. Two of her friends were so compassionate that they were the ones helping her in school whenever she needed to go to rest room.
“Farida that is now a star did not just happen overnight. It is by dedication and determination to bring out something in her to excel like other children. Mothers should be with their children, watch all their mannerism, pay attention and identify the area of strength and train them in those areas.
“Farida is now a software engineer not by accident. When I realised that she could not write, I got her computer when she was aged four. I also taught her how to type and out of her interest in computer. I did not see anything as obstacle even when she wanted to write examinations.
I went to see the Minister of Social Welfare, the Director of Special Education and officials of West African Examinations Council to let them know about her handwriting and they decided they could work with her and she wrote SSCE and passed the eleven subjects though I was the one carrying my computer, printer everyday to the examination centre.
When I see her now, I feel so blessed. She is now independent. She has her job, car, always travelling to be international speaker, she is on the Board of the National Communication Authority in Ghana just to mention a few”.