Inspiring Change: Josephine Namiriru
5 March 2014
Josephine is the sixth of seven children from a family in Uganda. Her father died when she was three and she was raised by her mother. Shortly before her father’s death, Josephine became disabled due to polio.
She started going to primary school when she was five. Life at school wasn’t easy. She was stared at and whispered about by her classmates, and felt very alone. But for her, learning was fun, and she was determined to succeed.
After primary school, her mother sadly broke it to her that her education would have to come to an end as she couldn’t afford to send her to secondary school. However, Josephine wasn’t ready to give up on her education. In their search for a way to keep Josephine at school, they came across the Nkokonjeru Cheshire Home, who agreed to sponsor Josephine with the help of the Lillian Foundation.
Josephine's new life started when she joined the Cheshire Home at the age of 15. With the home’s support, she went to secondary school. She went on to university to study business administration, sponsored by the government, and graduated in January 2014.
In 2009, Josephine joined Leonard Cheshire Disability’s Young Voices, a global network of young campaigners with disabilities. She became an advocate of change with a burning desire to make a difference and to reduce the difficulties faced by disabled children in school. She knew that while she had persevered, many children with disabilities would give up on education in the face of so many challenges.
Through Young Voices, she has taken part in many successful campaigns and her confidence has greatly increased. She led a group of five Young Voices members who successfully lobbied for a ramp to be constructed for the Catholic church in their community. At university she was elected to the Guild Representative Council. She used this post to come up with new ways to get the voices of students with disabilities heard, such as an awareness raising week.
One of the best moments in her life was when she was given the opportunity through Leonard Cheshire Disability to come to London to work shadow Lynne Featherstone, the UK Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Development. Josephine was very inspired to meet with someone who shared her passion for disability and women's issues. The experience has motivated her even more to strive to achieve great things and make a difference for women and people with disabilities in Uganda and around the world.
Josephine is very happy with what she has achieved so far. But she feels that her journey has just started, and her hopes to continue her studies, specialising in gender. Her message to all women on International Women’s Day, especially for those with disabilities is:
‘It is possible; it only takes passion, determination, persistence and prayer. You can become that important figure that you have admired all your life. The challenges that you meet along the way can always be overcome.’
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