Ameno Catherine Rolnu (extreme right) was among the first from the North East Region to be selected for the training course on Community Initiative in Inclusion (CII) at the Able Disabled All People Together (ADAPT), Mumbai.
Morung Express News
Kohima | February 3
Ameno Catherine Rolnu, Disability Activist and a Researcher Assistant in Training and Pedagogy, was two years old when she developed Ontogenesis Imperfect disability (Imperfect Bone Formation), a condition in which bones break easily due to some mild trauma or at times without any apparent cause. After she developed the disability she could not walk for nearly three years.
“Both my parents were made to leave their jobs, and everything behind as we had to shift to the Capital, Kohima for my treatment, since there were no medical facilities in my village,” says Ameno. More than her condition, societal attitudes and stigma were greater challenges for her.
Going to school was one of the hardest struggles of her life.
“Every morning, my father or my mother had to carry me to school. At school I was made to sit in a special chair. I never enjoyed school because of the bullying and teasing that I had to endure. Growing up, other children made fun of me. I had no peers support, I was often left alone, and isolated,” she recalls.
Then in school, she met with an accident where she broke her left thigh confining her to bed for another one year. These incidents led her to live a sheltered life and develop low self-esteem. She dreaded looking herself in the mirror or in photographs because of her physical appearance. Yet, it was the same fears which led her to the realisation that she did not want her disability to control her life.
“It forced me to think creatively and work harder—that my life is not defined by my disability, and that I can live my life just like anyone else,” notes Ameno.
Her desire to work for empowerment of persons with disabilities led her and a few like-minded friends to form a disabled people’s organization in the Southern Angami villages. She and her friends were determined to create better disability awareness in their communities and ensure that people with disabilities are not denied their rights.
“With four of my friends we went to thirteen villages and conducted door to door survey to identify persons with disabilities. We faced lots of hardships, obstacles but we managed with courage and zeal. We started raising funds by selling meat and vegetables,” shares Ameno. Sharing their personal stories, the group helped build awareness and attempted to transform confined mindsets and stigma against disability.
Further, in January 2014, with the support of the Prodigals Home Dimapur, Ameno along with her fellow activists formed the Nagaland State Disability Forum to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. The Forum has been indispensable in the area of policymaking for people with disabilities. For Ameno, the Forum has been a platform to lobby decision makers to ensure that the voices of people with disabilities are taken into account and that laws regarding disability are fully implemented.
The 32 year old Activist was among the first from the Northeast Region to be selected for the training course on Community Initiative in Inclusion (CII) at the Able Disabled All People Together (ADAPT), Mumbai- a course for trainers and planners of Community disability services in the Asia Pacific Region.
Following the training, Ameno joined the ADAPT, where she now works as an Assistant in Training & Pedagogy, at the One Little Finger Department. Keeping up with her commitment to work for PwDs, she assists and coordinate trainings related to disability, inclusive education and inclusion, and conduct empowerment courses to adults with disabilities and their parents, as well as students, teachers and corporates.
“I learnt that the challenges were the same everywhere and that we needed to work together. Understanding more about 'Inclusion', has empowered me and challenged me to work for disability rights and opportunities. I hope to create more opportunities for disabled people,” asserts Ameno.
To young people struggling with disabilities, Ameno advises, “Learning to live with a disability isn’t easy. Having bad days doesn’t mean you’re not brave or strong. And pretending you are okay when you are not, does not help anyone, least of all your family and friends. Let people trust in on how you’re really feeling. Adjusting to life with a disability can be a difficult transition.”
While one cannot wish away one's limitations, the Activist believes that one can change the way they think and cope with disability. With the growing awareness and understanding, and with available support, the chances of living an independent life beyond one's disability is possible.
“While living with a disability isn’t easy, it doesn’t have to be a tragedy. And you are not alone. Millions of people have travelled this road before you and found ways to not just survive, but thrive. You can too! You can be happy even in a 'broken body'.” remarks Ameno.