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Meet the 19 year old fighting disability stigma in Nigeria

19 year old Clemmie Rimmer from Huddersfield wears a prosthesis, but didn’t let this stop her from volunteering on an education project in Nigeria. Here’s her story. 

Of the estimated one billion disabled people around the world, more than 800 million are from developing countries. Disability is both a cause and consequence of poverty and many disabled people are denied access to basic human rights, such as education or the opportunity to make a decent living. 

 

Since 2012, more than 200 disabled young people from the UK have volunteered in developing countries with ICS. They have helped to challenge stigma and change attitudes by demonstrating that disability isn’t a barrier to making a difference. 

 

Clemmie with students in Nigeria

  

“When I started my placement I asked a few people if disability is an issue in Nigeria, and I got the answer that it doesn’t exist, which really surprised me. I did see a few disabled people around my host community, but it generally wasn’t ever spoken about. 

There was a lot of cultural superstition and lack of understanding. Some people didn’t recognise that disability isn’t a punishment, it’s not because disabled people have done something wrong in a past life, and that it’s nobody’s fault they’re disabled.  

It’s just luck I was born in the UK. That was quite a stark realisation for me.
Clemmie Rimmer

When my team went to the local market, adults and children pointed and stared at my prosthesis and asked what was wrong. This happens occasionally in the UK but it was on a much larger scale in Nigeria, with about one hundred people staring at me at once. It was definitely an experience.  

I’m really lucky that the NHS has given me my leg. It means I can walk and I’ve also been able to do things like ballet, rugby and skydiving. But my experience in Nigeria has shown me that had i not been born in the UK with a national health service I probably wouldn’t have even gone to school. There were no kids with a physical disability at the school I worked at.

I taught at a local school during my placement and used this opportunity to take my crutches into class, where I explained to the children about tolerance and diversity. I fielded all kinds of questions about my prosthesis, such as ‘How do you shower?’ 

Once I’d explained to the children, they didn’t treat me differently to the other volunteers, and we actually played chase and football together a few times. 

Some of the people I met in Nigeria were uncomfortable talking about disability and found the concept difficult to deal with. There was a different set of attitudes and disability wasn’t dealt with in the same terms as in the UK. It really needs to be talked about more. 

My time there was about challenging the perceptions people held about me.” 

In 2019, ICS will run two bespoke disability programmes in Bangladesh and Kenya  committed to improving the lives of people who have been marginalised because of their disability. 

In the meantime, find out more about Clemmie's experience on her blog.

Inspired by Clemmie's story?