This International Women’s Day, let’s wholeheartedly celebrate the struggles, achievements, love and never-give-up attitude of the women who not only supported their loved ones to become better versions of themselves, but also overcame every obstacle and made a difference.
Leader – Brina Maxino
She was appointed as a 2020 UNESCO Global Champion for Inclusion in Education. Brina was the only recipient from the Asia Pacific region, alongside teachers, education policy makers and community leaders from around the globe. On International Day of Persons with Disabilities, she had the chance to be interviewed by CNN to share why people like her, especially children, need to be included and not be forgotten in the educational system.
Brina seeks opportunities to speak on behalf of more than six million Special Olympics athletes around the world, she appeals to all people with good hearts. Those who think people with intellectual disabilities are not good enough are wrong. In Brina’s own words: “We can do more and be more if only the world gives us a fighting chance. As a unified generation, let us stand together and declare that all people matter; we who are differently-abled, we matter, too.”
Super Mom – Ratna Mohd Zain
You might give up on yourself, but they never do. Despite what everyone else thought about her daughter Nadhrah, who has Down syndrome, Ratna never gave up and made sure Nadhrah got the training she needed for life. Ratna sent her youngest child for bowling and swimming classes, working closely with her Special Olympics coach to build Nadhrah’s confidence and bring out the very best in her.
Through Nadhrah, Ratna has also been inspired to give back to the community and lead an active life. She volunteers with the Special Olympics family support network, and is part of the caregiver support network at Nadhrah’s former school. Ratna wants to share this message with the rest of the world: Don’t look down on people with disabilities. Create an inclusive environment so that they can reach their potential, at their own pace. They will achieve a miracle.
Survivor – George Aplonia
When George was four, she was almost killed by her own mother. When she was a bit older, the orphanage enrolled her in a boarding school for children with intellectual disabilities. She felt abandoned and unwanted. She was angry all the time at everything and everyone. She had trouble adjusting and often rebelled, even beating up her teachers and leaving them locked up in rooms.
But things changed when George joined Special Olympics. In the beginning, she was rude to her coach Ms Shilaja, but instead of being scolded, she was greeted with patience and love. Ms Shilaja never gave up on her. Over time, George found peace and empowerment through sports.
All her struggles were worth it when she was chosen to represent India in cycling at the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi. It was the first time she had ever been out of the country. She gave it her all and returned to Kerala a hero with two bronze medals in the 1,000km and 500km races. She has met so many different people since she returned from the Games, congratulating her and telling her that she did well. The feeling has been unbelievable.
Although she has lost her biological family, she found a new home through her relationship with Ms Shilaja and Ms Nailamma, who is in charge of the orphanage. Ms Nailamma loves her like a daughter. She teaches her right from wrong and encourages her to do better in life. At the orphanage, she has learned to do simple jobs. She tries to be a big sister to the younger residents.
These exceptional stories of a leader, mother, and survivor are inspirational reminders that we can all overcome any hurdle that comes our way with dignity and self-respect. We wish you all a very Happy Women’s Day!