As August is the month when we celebrate National Women’s Day, now seems to be the perfect time to reflect on the remarkable things that women with disabilities have done. CLAIRE RENCKEN reports
Veronica Baloyi (37) from Soshanguve has overcome many challenges. In spite of her traumatic past, after being pushed from the sixth floor of a block of flats in Pretoria, her positive attitude has become an inspiration to everyone she meets. “I was only 16 years old when I woke up after being in a coma for six weeks. They told me that I was paralysed and would never be able to conceive a child as a result of my injuries. I now have not one, but two, miracle daughters. I think what saved me was the fact that I accepted my fate immediately and have tried to lead a positive life ever since,” she says.
Veronica has won numerous awards as a result of her disability. She is also an ambassador for Ottobock. She donates wheelchairs to the needy and also gives motivational talks to youths at schools. Furthermore, she represents people with disabilities at her workplace – Transnet. “I believe that businesses should strive to empower their employees with disabilities to become young leaders so that they can represent the disability sector on various levels in business, civil society and the public sector,” says Veronica.
Then there’s 32-year-old Caroline Bowers. “I was born in 1984 in Cape Town at the old District 6 hospital. At birth, I was diagnosed with spinabifida, which occurs in different degrees – I was diagnosed as ‘lumbar 4’. This meant that I had normal brain function, but with severe paralysis of my lower body, poor bowel control and very little sensitivity in my feet.”
Doctors told Caroline’s parents that she would probably only live to the age of about 16, because of the severity of her paralysis and the impact that it would have on her kidneys. “Today, with the support of my dedicated parents and the grace from above, I have managed to reach a mature age of 32 and I’m still going strong!”
In fact, Caroline has become something of an ambassador for people with disabilities. She is a finalist in the Ms RSA Posh Plus national beauty pageant, which is taking place at the end of the year.
“I know I can make difference on a bigger platform. I am ready to take on the world. However, I have learnt over the years that you have to work hard and make sacrifices in order to succeed and make your dreams come true,” she concludes.