By Sadaf Abbassi

“I never let disability stop me”: story of a successful young woman

February 14, 2018

Professional identity has a huge impact on individual’s self-confidence, sense of satisfaction and creativity. Generally, it is very difficult for healthy and normal people to find a proper job and settle down. Now, imagine how this process will be challenging for a young woman with disability to shape her professional identity.

Yet, Samaneh Eftekhari, 32, who is suffering cerebral palsy, has successfully managed to go through such a difficult path that not every person has the courage to experience. 

The story of Samaneh, like all those who were born with disability, is full of pain and doubts, but the way she overcomes the barriers and adjusts herself with the situation, is what makes her inspirable.

She was different 

“I was born in a large family with 4 brothers and 3 sisters and I was the youngest of all. Due to the complications that occurred while the doctors were delivering me my brain suffered damages as it was deprived of oxygen and I lost some of my neurotransmitters responsible for my left arm and leg which caused me some movement restrictions,” Samaneh said.

“This made my life different from others. When I was little, rehabilitation services were not common and I had to be hospitalized without receiving any specific treatment. You can imagine how hard it is for a one or two-year-old child seeing her mother only for one hour a day,” Samaneh explained.  

She realized how people look at her, when she went to school for the first time. “Before school, I never had a best friend. Children used to play in the alley but I couldn’t even walk until I was three, and after that, I couldn’t play at park due to my disability. When I first attended elementary school or when I was going to play in a park, I was mocked by other children and even their families because of their lack of awareness about my condition,” Samaneh recalled. 

She tried hard to prove herself 

Samaneh recalled how hard she had to try at school to change the way others looked at her. “I always faced this challenge to prove that I am as talented and intelligent as other students, which was like a torture to me.”
 
“I didn’t like to be seen as an unearthly creature. In middle school, though I passed the entrance exam and was accepted at a top school, I had to face similar challenges as well. I have learnt to do my personal affairs and become independent,” she highlighted.

“When talking to my friends with disabilities, I find out that they really don’t care about their disability, but unawareness of the public is what causes problems.”

Samaneh talked about her sad experiences and the way others treated her due to her disability and said she didn’t want other people with disability to go through the same thing.  

“When Heidi, Girl of the Alps (a popular Japanese anime aired in Iran during 1990s) was being broadcast from the TV, I wished Clara (a paralyzed personage) could never walk again. When people were telling me that they pray for me to heal, I used to think maybe I am not a good girl and that is why I can’t be healthy.” 

University as a turning point

Regarding the difficulties Samaneh had to go through, she got accepted at university; a stage she considered as a turning point in her life which increased her self- esteem. 

“I was admitted in agricultural engineering in Zanjan’s public university, but I chose to study applied chemistry at Azad University; I made that decision because I liked my chemistry teacher at high school so much. The fact that everybody at the university knew that I was admitted by taking Konkour (university entrance exam) and without having any special privileges (due to my disability), was pleasant for me,” the young woman explained.

At this point, she got to know some NGOs working for people with disability that changed the way she saw the world.

“It changed my point of view. When I started to participate in NGOs events, I realized there are other people with disability and I was shocked when I saw they even made jokes about each other’s disability! Then I became a volunteer in these organizations that made me feel good about myself and increased my self-confidence. Having experiences in NGOs, improved my computer skills so that-it may seem funny now- I was being asked to create email accounts for my classmates over and over again. I am glad that even when I started my activities in social networks like Facebook, unlike other girls my age, I had different concerns and I sought to find people like myself,” Samaneh said proudly.

When there is no job in chemistry

Young Samaneh who saw herself as a competent expert in her favorite field of study, chemistry, was determined to start her career in this field: “When I finished university, I tried to find a relevant job. I was so confident during my internship in the laboratory that I’ve been asked to do all the quantity control by myself. I remember during my last day as an intern, I was working while the supervisor was sleeping. Maybe someone who was actually there seeing how I was doing my job would appreciate my abilities but there were other factors involved for employing me; for one, the human resources department and the CEO didn’t agree with me being employed there. ”

Finally, she decided that she can find a job in other fields rather than chemistry: “For a year, I focused on finding a job in chemistry, but I couldn’t find any. There were so many occasions that I was ready to start my job as an intern, but employers wouldn’t agree. So I decided to expand the lists of the jobs I could find. In 2013, I started my work as a clerk in an NGO where I was a volunteer before. This working experience increased my self-confidence and improved my speaking skills. However, after one year of working there, I started to think that despite the friendly atmosphere there, I could no longer make progress at this workplace,” Samaneh said about her career path.

Fitting in a flourishing workplace

Samaneh’s efforts to find a better job led her to a position in an insurance agency, but things did not go well as expected: “In 2014, I started my career in an insurance agency and I had planned to establish my own office after learning on the job by relying on my family’s financial support. But it seemed my employer didn’t like me to make any progress. Therefore, despite all the threats, I managed to stand up for my financial rights after one year of hard working, however, I quit.”

But it didn’t make the persistent young woman to stop following her dreams: “After quitting the insurance agency, I remained unemployed for 4 months, until I received an email about a career development and job placement strategies workshop from a charity foundation to enhance NGOs function. At this workshop, I realized that not only my disability kept me from finding my favorite job, but also my mistakes in writing a resume and job interviews were involved. Finally, I sent my resume for a customer service company and after going through all routine processes and meeting their requirements like everybody else I was employed there. It has been 4 years that I am working for this company and currently I am working as an expert at the company.”

“I’m positive that I can make progress in my job and I am happy to see that it is a friendly workplace,” says Samaneh with her shining eyes.

Increasing awareness about people with disability

Samaneh who is now happy with her job tries to increase public awareness about disability and the way society deals with it: “There are so many people who complain and blame society but I never let others believe that I am less competent due to my disability and I have tried to act as a promoter and share my experiences. For example, when I go to receive occupational therapy, I see children with disability and their parents who are suffering and are not willing to accept the fact that their children are different from others. I tell them my story and I usually get positive feedbacks,” she says.

The self-made courageous young woman believes that there are only few NGOs active for people with disability and they need to increase. She also says the more families are open to this matter, the easier it would be for children to cope with their disability: “In my Instagram page, I try to normalize disability so people in society treat this group of people better.”
 
These days, career coaching is a well-known process in which a coach provides guidance for someone who has just started his or her work; I believe career coaching must be taken more seriously for people with disability. On the other hand, social media’s reflection of disability is very crucial. Whether they believe in traditional clichés about disability or consider it as a normal condition that can occur to everyone, even to myself,” concluded Samaneh.  

MQ/MG

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