Being a victim of cerebral palsy, Chinwe Anyaehie Iroumanya (aka Chichi Iro), is proving to the world that there are actually abilities in disabilities. With her recently launched foundation, ‘The Enabled Life’, she is determined to cater for the needs of less privileged in the society. She is focusing on the blind, deaf and dumb and victims of cerebral palsy. In a chat with MOSES KADIRI, she reveals her mission
Fighting cerebral palsy
Through hard work, and dedication, Chichi Iro as she is fondly called was able to surmount the stigma and discrimination associated with victims of cerebral palsy.
She became a core advocate for people with disabilities. For her, her happiness lies in making others happy. Chichi Iro insist people with disabilities are here to stay. Her tale is that of a resilience woman who rose from grass to grace; born with cerebral palsy, a disorder of movement that affect body and muscle coordination. But she fought the stigma, challenges and abuse to become a total women who is now an advocate for people with cerebral palsy and other form of disabilities.
Though based in the United States of America, Chichi Iro grew up in Nigeria, she bank on no one before embarking on any task, she could do anything, virtually everything for herself. Through her academic life in primary, secondary, and university, she was the cynosure of all eyes due to her brilliance. “I grew up in Nigeria in the 60’s, when the world have no forgiveness for people with disabilities. I fought every stigma, every discrimination to get to the point I am today.
Raising against all odds
She rose against all odds to become the first person living with cerebral palsy to graduate from Nigeria Law School, Lagos in 1989. Chichi Iro is now impacting the lives of people with disabilities in the society. “I have actually been empowered by God to give strength to so many, both physically challenged and those that we called the amble body in the society,” she said.
Restoring life of the less privilege
Her benevolent is well known and felt among the blind, deaf and dump and the cerebral palsy family. Her foundation, The Enabled Life, a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) has restored hope to people with disabilities. Among the beneficiaries during the launch of the foundation were Benola Cerebral Palsy Initiative, Atunda Olu, Paccelli School of the Blind, Lifeline Organization for Children Empowerment, Modupe Cole Orphanages, FaeCare Foundation among others. “We will continue to monitor their progress. There is an agency that target widows, they are also one of our beneficiary, and there is also an agency that target young people. These are the areas I think we need to empower people in the country,” she stated.
Discrimination against people with disabilities
An author, of Healing Through my Stories and other books, Chichi Iro reveals reasons behind The Enabled Life. “The Enabled Life organization Nigeria objectives is to empower people who have any form of disabilities. I call disability anything that makes you not to live your life fully. For me it might not necessary be physical. Nigeria discriminates against people with disabilities and physically challenged and those are my main target. I also have interest on people that have challenges, which is making them not to live their life to the fullest. So, The Enabled Life is here for hope, it introduces people with disabilities in a new way; it introduce them as human being, people that are intelligent, and beautiful. I come in the forefront saying that people living with disabilities are here to stay. All we are saying is that physically challenge people are part of you.
That is the reason The Enabled Life is been run differently from how other disability advocacy is run in the country. I am interested in empowering people one-on-one. I want to see a change in an individual when I start. We have a way of measuring that progress. Some individuals may need education, some medical assistance, while others may need other forms of empowerment,” she said.
Passion for disabilities
Chichi reiterated that her passion is to give people with disabilities a new lease of life. “I always say no body understand the live of the physically challenged like someone that is physically challenged. And that is what I am here for. Advocacy for people with disabilities has been on for years, yet people still discriminate against physically challenged people. They will say no abled person will marry people with disabilities. I am here to say that I have been able to break the bearer; I am a woman in every inch of it. I am my husband’s dream, I have four sons and I am proudly their mother. I am doing it and I am rocking it, so why can’t others do it also,” she emphasized.
Dealing with stigma
Overcoming the stigma of a disability person was an uphill task for Chichi iro, but she surmount the hurdle with confidence, and resilience. “I grew up knowing what I wanted to do. I was a day dreamer. I took the good things about me specially my good look, I used it to conquer my challenges. But in all, the source of my strength is the Bible. When the Bible says, “you are fearfully and wonderfully made,” who am I to say I am not. Anytime I look in the mirror, I see God’s work of art in me. I could go anywhere, and no one can stop me. If I am intelligent enough to go to Law School, why would you stop me? If I am strong enough to be someone’s mother, why would you stop me? I am not afraid of stigma anymore. I am here as a source of hope to other people living with disabilities.”
The heart of a goal getter
After a brief stint in law, Chichi Iro went into banking sector. She recall the drama that played out during her interview for the job. “When I entered the room for the interview, they looked at ‘themselves’ saying hmmm! What is this one doing here? And they asked me, what can you can tell us about yourself? After introducing myself, I said my second name is challenges, which is why I am here. I asked them if they noticed when I walked in that I walked in with a limp. I saw the way you all exchange glances. They all said no! We did not see it. I said if you did not see it on my way in, on my way out you will notice it. That was the only question they asked me. I thought I failed the interview, that my leg caused it. A week later I got a letter from them for the job. I tell people that I mentor that it is okay for people to discriminate against you, because they don’t know how to deal with you, it is just fear of the unknown,” she said.
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