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THE UNEXPECTED LIFE SHOCK THAT LED TO GREATNESS!!!

“I never expected this shock in life”, says Grace Jerry.

I sat by a dark beautiful smooth-skinned lady during a women mentoring women dinner in a one story building Chinese restaurant in Lagos. As we got up to introduce ourselves, she begged to stay seated and introduced herself as Miss Grace Jerry, the Chief Executive Officer of ‘Xperiencegrace Foundation’, a foundation that fights for the rights of women with disabilities.

We had a wonderful night-out discussing how women can support women, and as the dinner ended, I excused myself to have a chat with Grace, telling her how much I have heard about her foundation and her success stories for disabled women. Seeing the crown on Grace’s head, I became more inquisitive. I asked if she was a beauty Queen, and she said, “I am the 2010 Miss Wheelchair Queen, and as a queen, I am even more devoted to making sure that disabled women are included in all fares of life”. I was shocked to know that the founder of ‘Xperiencegrace Foundation’ is paralyzed and in a wheelchair. We ended the chat and four hefty men carried her down stairs.

Grace Jerry is the 2010 Miss Wheelchair Nigeria Queen, an initiative that promotes the rights of persons with disabilities in Nigeria using women with disabilities as advocates for change. Grace was born without any form of disability but had to accept her fate when the doctor walked up to her to tell her about her new status: “I looked straight into his eyes and tears rolled down my chin”, she said, after she got involved in a ghastly motor accident that resulted in traumatic paraplegia, a paralysis of the lower limbs.

Grace is also a gospel Artiste and Disability rights promoter who is passionate about change in her community. The unique thing about Grace Jerry in the aftermath of her accident is her STRONG WILL to keep up. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, she took the bull by the horns despite the fact that she didn’t find it easy to accept her new status: the environment she found herself in didn’t help her situation either, but she determined to make the best use of her life and succeeded in attending the University of Jos were she obtained a Diploma in Law and is presently pursuing a degree from the National Open University of Nigeria. “Life hasn’t been easy, especially when women are generally marginalized and are not given their rightful position not to talk of women with disability. For me, I’m making the best use of my life because there’s ability in disability.”

Because of the challenges disabled women face, Grace uses her foundation to affect the lives of the disabled positively; she talks about her challenges, saying, “Firstly, the stigma itself is the biggest form of disability. There are a lot of misconceptions about disability and persons with disability in Nigeria like many other places in the world. Of course being a wheelchair user means your mobility is in a way reduced, but it becomes even worse when you have a society that has failed to make provision for accessibility as enshrined in international agreements such as the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, among others. Secondly, we have access to fewer opportunities for improved income and even education. In most communities, women with disabilities are considered not eligible for love or marriage because of their disability. So basically I will say our biggest problems have been attitudinal and architectural barriers in our communities”.

A major focus of her advocacy work and activism is reducing violence against women with disabilities, especially those in rural areas with little opportunity for education or improved means of livelihood. Grace has empowered over ten thousand disabled women and girls with entrepreneurial skills and has donated over five thousand wheelchairs to rural disabled persons in bid to increasing their mobility. She initiated capacity-building trainings and town hall meetings where she discussed issues affecting women with disabilities in view of raising more voices, empowering each other and mobilizing support for action. Presently, Grace is using her SEE project to mobilize and empower street children with disability and increased school enrollment for them.

Nigeria as a country has the least the inclusion of the disabled persons in the politics, academia, employment, or even architectural construction. She presently advocates to contractors, builders and policy makers to consider the disabled in the various building constructions and decision making, so that the disabled can have a friendly, accessible environment. Her positive outlook on life despite her challenges and her strong power of advocacy is helping to bring changes to a lot of new construction projects.

Grace’s works are having great impact in Nigeria today. “We have made some progress since we started this campaign. Firstly in terms of attitudinal change, there has been an improvement. Today people don't stare at us like strange beings as in the past. Our families and community are gradually getting used to the fact that persons with disabilities are humans first before their challenges. This is heartwarming; we have also made some progress in our efforts to remove the institutional and architectural barriers that have hindered our full participation in times past. Since the launch of the SEE Project, we have seen about twenty churches create ramps in places of worship and five star hotels in Lagos show commitment to making their facilities more accessible to persons with reduced mobility after advocacy visits and engagements. I’ve been appointed as the official spokesperson for WaterAid in Nigeria on the Disability for the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene program in Nigeria. This is inspiring for me because it’s a dream come true for me and the over fifty million Nigerians with disabilities whom I represent,” says Grace Jerry.

Grace is facilitating the blowing of the wind of change towards women and persons with disabilities in Nigeria; her works are awesome and can be replicated globally, giving women with disabilities around the world a chance to SHINE.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous new media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

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Comments

Nusrat Ara's picture

That is one courageous woman.

That is one courageous woman. Thanks for sharing.

Love

Nusrat

treasureland's picture

Yaa, she is...

Thanks Nusrat for your comment. Grace is really a courageous woman.

Ifesinachi

olutosin's picture

Welldone my sister...

Well crafted and beautifully realy written yet touching.

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town
Lagos-Nigeria

https:

treasureland's picture

Thanks Dear!

Thank you Tosin. Cheers

Ifesinachi

Liz4peace's picture

Inspirational Story

Great story about a woman fighting for the rights of the disabled. Please read Duba's story "WIt rules, Strength Rolls the Log" - she has a similar one to tell about another courageous fighter for disabled rights in Serbia. Maybe your Grace and her Julijana can meet, at least virtually! I LOVE this!

Liz
Encinitas, California

treasureland's picture

Yaa, Great story indeed.

Thank you Liz, Grace is really a courageous fighter. Please can you send me the link to Duba's story. Grace will really love to partner with her.

CHEERS.

Ifesinachi

Liz4peace's picture

Story from Serbia

Hi Ifesinachi,

Here's the link to Dubravka's story:

worldpulse.com/node/47524

I hope these two women and you two correspondents, as well, can connect!

Shanti

Liz

treasureland's picture

Thank you Liz

Hello Liz, thanks for the link, I will connect with the other correspondent then...

Cheers.

Ifesinachi

treasureland's picture

Thank you Liz

Hello Liz, thanks for the link, I will connect with the other correspondent then...

Cheers.

Ifesinachi

mirette's picture

She is a beautiful strong

She is a beautiful strong woman!

Grace is really a strong woman.

Ifesinachi

Rachael Maddock-Hughes's picture

Empowering

That was a very empowering story, thank you so much for sharing it with us. I really liked to things that she said:
"there’s ability in disability" and "the stigma itself is the biggest form of disability". I think she makes two very important points about disability with these statements. Her achievements are amazing as well! You might want to consider including more statistics next time. Like where you talk about Nigeria has the least inclusion of people with disability--including the statistic that you found on this would have been great.

Keep up the good work,

Rachael

"In every human heart there are a few passions that last a lifetime. They're with us from the moment we're born, and nothing can dilute their intensity." Rob Brezny

treasureland's picture

Thanks Rachael, I'm inspired!!!

Hello Rachael, I'm inspired by your comments and thanks for your contribution. I have noted it, next time, I will use enough statistics. CHEERS

Ifesinachi

BlueSky's picture

Tell Us More!

Thank you so much for telling us about Grace Jerry, but I must know more! How can we get in touch? You say that "her works are awesome and can be replicated globally", but when I Googled Xperiencegrace Foundation I didn't find a website; only a Facebook page that is empty. The good news is that the Google search brought up your article! Perhaps when you get contact information you could include it in your article and tag your article with Grace Jerry and Xperiencegrace Foundation.

Thanks so much Ifesinachi. I can't wait to learn more!

treasureland's picture

Thank you BlueSky.

Thanks BlueSky for your comment, of a truth Grace's works are awesome and can be replicated. The issue we have in Nigeria and some African Nations is that we have very poor ICT knowledge, alot of people really does not see the essence of putting their works online maybe due to poor awareness on web 2.0 or funds to have a site running. She is actually working seriously with the grass-root people and that also helped in earning her the MISS Wheelchair Queen.

This issue of low awareness on the use of ICT and the internet is what has made my organization to also try to empowering people with the knowledge of the use of ICT for both publicity, branding and information sharing purposes.

That is why I'm so happy Worldpulse has given me the opportunity to horn the voices of people like Grace Jerry that may not have had much on the internet and also encourage people especially women to learn to use all means possible including web 2.0 to horn their own voices.

But sincerely, with our support, she can do more and if you want to get in touch, I can give you her email address.

RIGHT NOW AS WE SPEAK, she is presently under going rehabilitation and treatment. She recently got involved in another MOTOR ACCIDENT.

Lets keeping praying for her and keep honing her voice.

CHEERS.

Ifesinachi

BlueSky's picture

Tell Us More!

I am so sorry to hear about her being involved in another motor vehicle accident. Sheesh!

I would like to be in contact with her to learn what she has done that it might be replicated here. We have NOTHING in the way handicapped awareness, let alone handicapped access, or more especially handicapped suitable facilities, such as toilets, etc. Perhaps there are international initiatives that we could create.

Please send her contact information. Thanks so much.

treasureland's picture

Dear BlueSky,

Dear BlueSky, here is Grace's contact email.

ms.wheelchair@yahoo.com

CHEERS.

Ifesinachi

BlueSky's picture

Tell Us More!

Thanks much Ifesinachi!

treasureland's picture

Dear...

You are welcomed my dear BlueSky. CHEERS

Ifesinachi

noreens's picture

It's always so nice to read

It's always so nice to read about people who don't give up in spite of their disabilities. Thanks for the story!
Noreen

treasureland's picture

So much Thanks to you Dear!!!

Dear Noreens, Thanks for your comment, Grace has so much abilities.

Cheers

Ifesinachi

rozjean's picture

Miss Wheel Chair Nigeriz Queen

Dear Ifesinachi,
Thank you for your inspiring profile of Grace Jerry. It is heartening to know that her campaign for improving the lives of handicapped people is showing results. She sounds like a strong-will woman who will continue to fight for herself and others to have the equality they deserve. I thought the accompanying pictures was a nice touch.
Warm wishes,
Rozjean

treasureland's picture

Thanks Rozjean.

Grace is truly a strong woman. She needs us to do more. CHEERS

Ifesinachi

Mary Ann M's picture

Broadcasting Grace's Voice

You have done such a wonderful job in capturing Grace's voice and her story. In this you have acted as an agent to connect Grace and her story more strongly to the world through Web 2.0.

Your story caused me to ask the question, "In what way might the average person in Nigeria help in Grace's quest?" I can just see how perhaps one small action multiplied by many people could result in even more changes.

You have done well in your story. Thank you for sharing it!

Many Blessings, Mary Ann

Many Blessings,
Mary Ann

treasureland's picture

So delighted Mary Ann...

I'm indeed so delighted at your comment.

Your question is a good one, an average person/Nigerian is there feeling pity and doing charity, but grace has gone pass a stage of pity and charity. She's taking the bull by its horns and taking back the rights of persons with disabilities.

We all need to be her supporters.

CHEERS

Ifesinachi

laurabstull's picture

:)

Ifesinachi,

I'm so excited to see your first assignment posted! You've really brought Grace to life, and I couldn't be more pleased with how beautifully your piece has evolved.

So happy to be working with you, can't wait for the next assignment!

Love
Laura

treasureland's picture

Owe you lots of HUGS Laura.

Dear Laura, I'm so happy I have you. Thank you for your precious time.

I will hug you so firmly if we ever see.

You are the best.

CHEERS

Ifesinachi

MaDube's picture

She is a strong woman. The

She is a strong woman. The leader of the Disabled Women's Society in Zimbabwe also had a similar experience; she was able to walk until she was involved in an accident which paralysed her and now she leads a powerful movement of women fighting for recognition and for their rights. Amazing women.

treasureland's picture

Thank you MaDube

Grace is a strong woman indeed and I cherish a lot what these women are doing in their various Countries irrespective of their challenges.

They all need our support.

CHEERS

Ifesinachi

mrbeckbeck's picture

Incredible woman

Wow, Ifesinachi, you've found an amazing woman to profile here! A true leader, making a difference in so many lives. I love how she said the biggest challenges are in people's attitudes, and also architecture. The good news is that these things can change! It's impressive that she's already achieved so many successes... over 5,000 wheelchairs to rural areas, it sounds like a lot to me (but I am sure the need is much bigger).

Thank you for introducing us to this change-leader. Her story is inspiring and I agree that it can be replicated around the world to help boost the lives of paralyzed peoples, and give them the chance to make the world a better place.

Warm wishes for the New Year,
Scott

Scott Beck
World Pulse Online Community Manager

treasureland's picture

Thanks Scott.

Grace is indeed a true leader, making a difference in so many lives.

She needs us to do more.

CHEERS Scott.

Ifesinachi

What a very beautiful piece you've written, Ifesinachi. I re-read it today. I felt very moved by your description of Grace and her work -- and see these very qualities in you!

Many are qualities that you're aware of -- that you bring to life every day. Are there some that you'd like to tap more fully?

In what ways is Grace's work influencing your own?

I believe that you're a gifted writer. Your voice is so clear and powerful.

Thank you for this wonderful work:
~ for the ways you're bringing the qualities that you admire in Grace to life in your own, beautiful and unique way
~ for bringing more fairness, justice and power to women and children in Nigeria and beyond
~ and for being a pioneer of Web 2.0 in Nigeria!

Through this one action ~ leveraging your gift with technology to bring forth your voice and others' ~ I see you having a great impact on the lives of so many.

Gratefully,

Robin

treasureland's picture

Thank you Robin

Thank you Robin for re-reading my piece, I'm so happy to have you give me your whole time.

Thank you for all your encouragements and words of wisdom.

CHEERS.

Ifesinachi

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