I feel like a free bird now

Shewly, born with deformities, smiles from her wheelchair in a garden setting in rural Bangladesh

Indoors for 28 years, Shewly is now passionate advocate for people with disabilities  


“I feel like a free bird now and can go anywhere I like. I enjoy children and families in my neighbourhood.” 


Born with deformities, Shewly was confined to her home for 28 years. Confined to a small space in a rural village in Bangladesh, she was unable to move due to her legs being dysfunctional. She had always wanted to go to school but her situation had made it impossible.


Shewly felt she was a burden, being totally reliant on her mother, Helena to be carried places. She never knew that things could be different for her. She didn’t know how her life could be transformed if only she had a wheelchair.


A focus on gender equality and social inclusion (GSI) in WASH delivery is a defining approach of Water for Women.


In Bangladesh, our partner, World Vision has incorporated this GSI approach into their SHOMOTA project which has seen the team work on engaging with communities on therights of people with disabilities and connect with people with disabilities to ensure their voice is heard in the WASH planning and delivery process.


At the same time, the SHOMOTA project is strengthening systems by working with local administration and school management committees to mobilise them for inclusive WASH and leadership. Through different awareness events, meetings, workshops and training people are attaining more knowledge on how to communicate and coordinate and to ensure the voices of the marginalised are heard in the process.


Through this work, the project team met Shewly.


The team worked to build up Shewly’s confidence and encourage her be part of the Self Help Group of Goalerchar Union Parishad, this helped to link her with the CDD to get access to a wheelchair.


We think Shewly’s smile says a lot about her life now. Not only has she gained mobility, she has also gained a strong desire to help others like her.


Shewly found the confidence to participate in the self help group and raise her voice. For the first time in her life, she had a platform to share her story and struggle, whilst also hearing from other people with a disability. Her passionate participation led to her being selected for leadership training as well as training on inclusion in WASH. 


Within a few short months, Shewly was helping other disabled people come forward and claim their lost confidence, to become active citizens in their communities.


Her dedication is a constant inspiration to the SHOMOTA team, who are continuing to provide coaching and mentoring support so that Shewly can blossom into a strong disability rights leader, as she says herself, ‘I want to work for people like me and be a role model.”


Original story by Rakhi Barua, Focal Point, Partner CDD,
This version edited by Water for Women


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