Yesterday evening, I was touched by the story of an Australian videographer, who is currently traveling the world in spite of his condition (quadriplegic). Thousands of people redistributed the video and expressed support and admiration for his incredible determination to overcome his limits. Early this morning I felt strangely inadequate about the above inspirational story: I casually run over a similar situation recently, yet I have not spent another second thinking about it… I’m that cruel?
Ayisha is probably the most beautiful 13 years girl I could have passed by and ignored in my life. She spent 1,5 hours in the queue hoping to be able to get the Non-Food Item (NFI) kit for her family. Ignoring the fact that the NFI Kit was 2/3 of her size and double her weight, the rules explicitly restrict distribution to children. She was therefore idling around hoping for a miracle.
Her persistence eventually drawn enough attention and an exceptional home delivery was agreed upon.
25 minutes we intensely sweat our way through the labyrinth of narrow pathways, stairs, shelters and latrines just to lose Ayisha through a narrow entrance between two shelters. Minutes later she reappeared by dismantling a wall of her family’s bamboo and tarpaulin shed. Inside, her mother was sitting on a rug, attending a nearly malnourished toddler. We delivered the NFI kit and left, pleased that we went out of our way in doing our job.
Overnight, this self-satisfaction went sour: I just witnessed one of the most crippling handicap in our refugee camps and walked away… Indeed it’s a cultural particularity that single women don’t welcome visitors, yet this lady has not moved an inch, has not greeted us and looked highly uncomfortable with our presence. Her mobility was severely affected (she cannot leave the house, she has to avoid any social context and no female friends will visit her). A social stigma forbids her to touch anything or anybody (except her personal belongings). The one room shelter provides absolutely no privacy (she has three children). Her children are still depending on her and she will get no help or break from her duties. Her hygiene is seriously challenged since the closest source of water is 20 minutes away and the children can carry only limited quantities (don’t get me started about the quality of the water). The little she has is either humanitarian support or skillfully improvised items (e.g. hanging crib from easily available materials like bamboo and ropes). Worst of all, the world has solutions to make her life way easier, but they are out of her reach.
By comparison, the 23 years, videographer, travel the world with the benefit of special assistance. Don’t get me wrong, the motorbike accident he suffered is still horrible and his determination is still brave and commendable. However, we are so much ready to support and admire him and overlook her special need as not special enough. Indeed, three, five of seven days later he will still be a quadriplegic living probably a much easier life (by a comparison), while she would have had a “miraculous” recovery just to return to her miserable existence.
We find unacceptable such a comparison, yet the men's world has no problem to subject (on a monthly basis) 269.617 persons in the camps to living conditions worse than those of a quadriplegic.
In case you did not figure it out yet, we (the rest of the world) call this "handicap" simply... menstruation.