A fight for recognition turned to a leadership opportunity

Stories | February 16, 2024

Maritez is a 57-year-old mother of three from the Philippines. Serving as a teacher for 11 years, unfortunately she was forced to retire following a cancer diagnosis. Following a long surgery and eight rounds of chemotherapy, Maritez has now been cancer free for 6 years! But her treatment took its toll leaving Maritez with a colostomy bag and chronic illness. 

When people think of disability, they often think about people with physical disabilities or disabilities that are visible and obvious, such as a person in a wheelchair or someone who is blind. However, we know that just because you can’t ‘see’ someone’s disability, doesn’t mean they don’t have a disability.

This was the challenge Maritez had to overcome when she decided to run for president of her local Organisation of People with Disabilities (OPD). During the process, the officials did not recognise Maritez as a person with a disability. As a result, she was not invited to participate in the election campaign.

Not happy with that decision, Maritez pushed for her rights as a person with a disability to be recognised. Not only was Maritez allowed to run for President, but she won!

At first, leading the OPD was hard. She found calling meetings and encouraging the members to participate and socialise challenging. She had to find ways to get the group to engage!

Through a CBM supported project, Maritez, alongside other OPD members, got training to better understand disability rights. It also built her skills and confidence to become a strong group leader.

Maritez introduced a number of initiatives to motivate the group. She started fundraising activities to cover the membership fee, because someone’s financial situation should not be the reason they can’t participate. She also created a communal garden to act as a space where members can hang out and talk about shared experiences. And, as a bonus, they all get to share the food they grow!

With support from the project team, Martiz also got the organisation formally registered – an important step in getting the organisation to be taken seriously and having the voices of its members heard.

With her leadership, the organisation is partnering with the local government to improve their small-scale communal gardens and creating a greenhouse as part of the government’s Climate Change Adaptation Program. They are also lobbying the government for improved disability inclusion services.

 

“Every day, we meet different challenges in life. Never give up or be affected in our daily activities, think positively. Overcoming these challenges makes our life meaningful and fulfilled.”

Maritez

 

 

Mrs Maritez sitting and looking away

CBM Australia acknowledges the support of the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) and thanks our implementing partner.

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