Saturday March 30th 2019, will remain one of the most memorable days in Cameroon and the world of persons with disabilities. On this day, all roads led to Hotel Djeunga Palace, Yaounde, to witness a unique dawn in the way we perceive beauty and the catwalk.
It was a night to remember, the lessons of the day profound. In spite of making a Facebook post about the events that same day, I have found myself constantly reflecting on what went on that night and I cannot stop marveling at the richness of the night and the many take home lessons. Before we get into these lessons, let me give a brief overview why such an inclusive fashion show was not only unique but very necessary.
Why the need
We live in a country where people with disabilities are despised and discriminated against. The organizer and CEO of SisterSpeak237 Commy Mussa in her introduction spoke about her everyday relationship with persons with disabilities through her grandmother, father and aunt and the challenges they faced daily. Their stories resonate with a lot of people living with disabilities. Majority lack accesses to a lot of things and for some, dreams remain just that, dreams. Structures are built daily without considerations for people with disabilities and there are not many policies in place favouring them.
Also, social constructs and perceptions of what beauty is all about, conveniently excludes persons with disabilities. This Fashion show was out to dispel that and to emphasize that not only does beauty come in all shapes and sizes, keeping our misconceptions aside and looking beyond the wheel chair and its various cousins, we see valuable members of the community with so much to give if we can only practice inclusiveness.
About 20 beautiful young women and girls participated in this maiden edition of #Acess2019. Due to the present unrest in the North West and South West Regions, many had difficulties traveling. Animations brighten the show and kept the audience entertained throughout. At one point just before the runway participants had to do the catwalks in all their rolling and tapping glory, the audience joined the animation people to chant to the chorus of “NO VIOLENCE”
Some Take Home Lessons from the Show.
There were many take home lessons from this unique show. Some of which could be seen below;
- Your life is neither over nor stagnant because you have a disability. We can like these beautiful souls who thrilled the audience as they wheeled and tapped through the catwalk, rise above the challenges and fight for a better life.
- Disability is not inability. Some of the participants were highly skilled individuals who are contributing greatly to the quota of the country. Therefore, for any country to move forward, it is crucial to be inclusive.
- True love sees the heart of a person and not the just physical. Anyone who loves you enough will stand by you and cheer you on, daily.
- Even people with autism are beautiful and with just a little care and inclusiveness, they blossom.
- Team work is essential for the successful preparation and coordinating of any occasion or event, one person cannot do it all.
- There are a group of determined young Cameroonians who have refused to wallow in self-pity, blaming all and sundry but are who are working hard to be the change they wish to see…gives one reason to see hope on the horizon.
The future is inclusive and any progressive nation would do well to think inclusiveness when planning for national machineries. I have known Commy Mussa as a strong proponent of inclusiveness and she not only talks the talk but walks the walk too. #Access 2019 had some strong messages of inclusiveness which the public and organizers of events at large could gain from.
- The program was coordinated in English/ French, taking into cognizance the bilingual nature of the country, Cameroon.
- One of the emcee was visually impaired and he did such a great job that yours truly, thanks to my ability to read lip, caught a few lips in the audience go the ‘Oh my God’ Moment, when they realized that the man who was doing such a great job at co-hosting is visually impaired.
- The sign language interpreter was available to
translate everything spoken to keep the deaf and hearing impaired focused and
engaged. As someone who is also hearing impaired, this was so helpful and thus,
was able to really enjoy the show and take down notes. I pray organizers of
events would take a page out of this so that in future, events would be equally
engaging for the deaf and hearing impaired.
All in all, it was a very beautiful and edutaining show. It kept everyone keen on observing and learning. With so many media houses present that evening, my wish is that the messages from the various participants would cut across wider audiences and thus, make inclusiveness a reality within our communities.
I applaud the organizing team for a job well done.