Globally, the statistics tell us that over 1 billion people live with a disability, and 80% of them live in a developing country. The cycle of poverty and disability can only be broken if the rights and needs of people with disabilities are addressed. I am so happy to know that Laos, in particular, is a country that has started taking matters into its own hands. Many individuals and organisations are working in Laos to create greater opportunity and inclusion for people with disability. One of those people is Daengmani Sibounheung, who is the last in this series from women with disabilities living in Laos. Her responses are simple and open and highlight how no matter where someone lives, the opportunity to be accepted for who you are, to be able to contribute and included in your community is something we all desire.
Daengmani is living a life where she is shaking off the misconceptions others had about how she could live and work in the community. The influence of teachers who saw how much she had to contribute and the support of her friends and colleagues makes all the difference to how she is making her own way in the world.
Find out more about how I was inspired to share this series of Laotian women’s stories with you here.
Tell us about yourself
My name is Daengmani Sibounheung, I am 26 years old.
What has been your journey of disability?
I had a fever and felt my whole body was getting weak. The doctor said my bones were too weak so that they would be able to grow anymore. This happened when I was 3.
Are there things about you that people misunderstand because of your disability?
I was misunderstood, people thought that I could not work with able-bodied people, and people thought I cannot live a regular life in society with others.
Which three words would you use to describe yourself?
Determination, doing good things, using my ability.
Who or what has been the most significant influences on who you are today?
My teachers and my friends.
What’s one thing about you that surprises people?
That I am hard-working.
For what are you most grateful today?
Proud of myself that I can make a living on my own and not be a burden to my parents.
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
I would have been a better daughter for my parents and would not let them down. I would also pay attention to study.
Is there something that you would like people to know about you or about people with disability that they might not know?
Even though we are disabled, we can work the same like people who are able-bodied. (Do not look at disability, look at our Ability)