Winning the world of Web from wheelchair

DHAKA, May 6: Pictures of 28-year-old Sabrina Sultana, laughing with her head held back, can be seen both on her Facebook page and on her blog. Looking at them, it would seem as if she was a woman with not a care in the world. But pictures do lie. Wheelchair-bound, she has not ventured out into the open for most of her life. But that hasn’t stopped Sabrina from living. Recently she won the second prize in an international blogging competition organised by German news broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

In her blog — ‘Facebook, I and Our Dreams’ — the Chittagong woman has written about existing obstacles that she had to face in life as someone who was called “disabled” by everyone around her.

At the age of 10, Sabrina became a victim muscular dystrophy, a deadly disease which makes the human body totally dysfunctional as time passes. Today, she dreams of an equal society where she can hold her head high and not be the victim of indecent rebukes.
“After the disease was detected, my parents began hiding me from the society in fear that I will be rebuked,” she told ‘The Independent’. “They did it because of their lack of awareness about the disease. As time passed, I became totally captive in my room — I passed my days reading books, and sometimes watching television.”

Sabrina said it was her sister’s plight that made her take up activism. Tasnin, who was 14 years younger to Sabrina, was also diagnosed with the same disease. “At that point, after getting a laptop, I peeked into the world of Internet and Facebook. It changed my life — I got the easiest way to share my pain and sorrow with millions of others,” she said.
Along with another physically challenged woman, Salma Mahbub, Sabrina started a group called Bangladeshi Systems Change Advocacy Network (B-SCAN), an association that is trying to raise awareness on the plight of people with disabilities in Bangladesh by creating network through advocacy for the system change in the country.
On November 1, 2009, Sabrina wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, making some suggestions to reduce the prevailing discriminations against persons with disabilities in the country.

‘’If I was your own daughter, would you hide me from the society?” she asked in the letter. “If my brothers can dream of a bright future achieving higher education, why I can’t do the same? How long shall we remain in a society that is so dark?”  In her letter, she wished to meet to the PM to share her opinion in eliminating barriers for people with special abilities. But no one from the PMO has yet contacted her two years since she sent the letter.
However, Sabrina has a plan. She writes in Bangladeshi Systems Change Advocacy Network (B-SCAN, a very popular group among the Facebook communities), “I want to see that a beautiful, human society for all the peoples with special abilities. Mainly, I want to develop the living standards of such people by building massive awareness and protecting our rights.”

She said four initiatives can play a vital role in upgrading social dignity of people with special abilities: education, employment, friendly moving, and right to access.
“I know I cannot change people’s mentality only with Facebook groups, so we have to be more active,” she said. “I want to do many things and I believe that the day will come in Bangladesh when people with disability can come out and breathe under the open sky.
That is my only dream and aim of my life.”

As a message for the general people, she said, ‘’We, persons with special abilities, do not want kindness — rather, we need our rights.”


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