(…) I did not choose to be different. Like most children, I was born healthy. I played tennis and did karate, I dreamt like all girls of becoming an actress, a stewardess… But, when I was just 15, I became incurably ill. I was confronted with a progressive muscular dystrophy, which causes disability, which is in my case at 100%. However, it wasn’t just me who was faced with this illness; it was my whole family. (…)
Did you know that 80% of girls with disabilities never enroll in school, let alone finish it? I was lucky in that aspect, but then there was the question: what next? I heard the doctor say to my parents: “The cure does not exist, the illness is progressive, and she will end up in a wheelchair.” What will happen to me? All I wanted – like everyone else – is to have a family: to get married one day, to have children…But from where I was standing, it all seemed incredibly difficult. I thought that I was alone in all of this and that my parents would just leave me in some institution. As I said, I was fortunate to have a wonderful family, but what happens to those who do not have a family? What happens to the ones who do not have the possibility to fight for what they want?
Fortunately, I met some incredible people from the Association of Students with Disabilities and the “From the Circle” organisation, I even managed to reach the Government of the Republic of Serbia, where I signed a project regarding the Safe House with the Minister Zorana Mihajlović, and I succeeded in doing something important for the entire country. I met with the Mayor of Niš – I, a person who cannot even enter the Assembly building without five people carrying me up the stairs – I managed to do something important, not only for my city but also for my country.
Maybe you didn’t know, but women with disability in Serbia don’t have any rights. They do not have the right to adopt children; even if they do get married – which is rare – they get divorced more often than men with disabilities; if they become disabled during their marriage, there is a greater chance they would be abandoned by their spouse, than if the situation was reversed; the healthcare system doesn’t have solutions for us – there is not one gynaecological examination table suitable for women with disabilities; everyone is discouraging us from becoming mothers (I wanted to have my son Strahinja so much, I risked my life to have him); when a woman with a disability gets divorced, her child is taken away, the child is either given to the father, or gets placed in a foster family… So it’s not even double-discrimination, it is multiple discrimination!
However, this cannot and should not discourage us! Precisely these obstacles where what gave me the strength to continue fighting! Even if I fall down (and I am a frequent guest at Orthopaedics, just this year I visited it four times), and I am forced to be in the wheelchair again, I will get up and continue fighting, I will not let it be the end. I am fighting to change the legislation; I am fighting so women with disabilities would have equal rights, benefits, support systems and services, such as personal assistance, priority with placing children in kindergartens, and the right to receive meals at school, and not let anyone take their child away which is the easiest thing to do – and it does not destroy just one life, but the entire family! Let’s instead introduce support services. I will continue to fight, and I will win, and I expect nothing less from all of you. I know that you will support me and become my partners!