I am Gilbert, I come from Sandema Builsa North District in the Northern part of Ghana.
Photographer: Erin Johnson, Ghana © CBM Australia 2014
I was born with a disability. My disability is cerebral palsy and it has affected me in so many ways. First of all it has affected my movement and it has also caused social exclusion especially from the family level.
Among the things my family have prevented me from participation, is education. I was not allowed to participate in the school or to be taught by any teacher.
I also have never seen any immunisation in me and even when I was sick, I was not allowed to be sent to any hospital.
I really thought very badly about myself… if our parents are doing discrimination, taking proper care of my siblings and not taking care of me due to my impairment, does that mean I am not regarded as a human being any longer? I thought: then what is the purpose of my living?
I was 15 years when I said, look, enough is enough I am bigger than any circumstance. So I got out and started as a rice farmer.
Sandema CBR, (a local grassroots NGO) got to know about me and started working with me. CBR is one of the projects that really helped me to know that I can become an owner of something.
I was 20 years old when I started vocational training. I graduated successfully and then became a teacher based on the vocational training.
About being married, my father said: “As for you Gilbert you will have to forget about being married, because no one would like to give his or her daughter to you.” But when I found my wife I went home and told my father, because I have found my lady.
I was the first person with a disability to have a wedding in the region. They had never seen that before. Many people confirmed: really there is a change. Because the things they used to see about People with a Disability has been changed and my wedding has spelt it out clearly.
I am now the president of the Disabled Peoples Organisations (DPOs) of the entire district of Builsa North. My role in advocacy is to ensure that persons with a disability are really included in everything, to ensure that persons with a disability also feel like any human being.
I go to radio stations and I tell them what disabled people can do. I told people on radio: look disability is no more our impairment; it is only an impairment by the attitude of society. Me sitting here, none of my legs are painful but the attitude of people causes pain in my heart.
I need to educate people with disability to know that there’s no condition that can prevent you. All contribution is important. The gift in me needs to be contributed. I need to contribute my part even if there are so many teachers. They may not have my gift. You need to have the courage to contribute to the development of the district, the community and the larger society as well.
I am a happy man, I feel very proud I’m always ready to do anything according to my capacity.