She wears pink, listens to Atif Aslam’s songs and loves walking in the rain on a mild summer day in Australia. She enjoys hanging out with friends, sharing a pizza and plays lady Gaga in the back ground. Sky blue is her favorite color and if she could, she would spend all her money on new clothes and jewelry. Her dream is to travel the world, meet new people and experience new places. Currently, she is enrolled in a degree in Public Policy at ANU in Canberra on an Ausaid Scholarship.
This is Noor Jehan, living a life much richer and more inspirational than many of us. It would not occur to you that this young girl is restricted to a wheel chair and has limited visual abilities. She was born with perfect sight and bodily faculties but had polio at the age of two and lost her mobility. From the age of seventeen her eye sight started to deteriorate and now she can see hazy figures but cannot recognize people, she is categorized as “legally blind”.
Noor comes from a traditional Pakhtun family in Kohat; she is the second of six siblings, five sisters and one brother. All her other siblings are perfectly healthy, two are doctors and the others are also pursing active lives. Being a Pakhtun girl from Pakistan itself was a challenge, because of strict conservative mores, and if you add having special needs to it, it’s a constant struggle. She says simply, “I never gave up. The Ausaid scholarship gave me the opportunity to be financially independent in perusing my dreams. Otherwise there was no way I could persuade my family to support my education abroad and since I was funding myself it was easier to convince them to let me come to Australia. I am happy that I am able to provide for myself and did not have to depend on anyone for my personal needs.”
When asked on how she gets this outlook on life, Noor says. “I grew up as a typical person with disabilities, I did see a lot of negativity and lamented why I was chosen to be in such circumstances. I was not the most happy or vocal person around but I was a fighter. I did use to blame my family, society and the state for not providing enough support. My life turned a leaf when I started working in Islamabad with Dr. Mukhtar, at Pakistan Institute of Prosthetic & Orthotic Sciences. I realized I will have to do everything for myself and I am the person who can earn me the life I deserve and that made all the difference.”
Living in Australia
“Living in Australia is a great experience; I feel as a Pakistani it’s easier to be here than it would be in other parts of the world at this point in time. I feel accepted, respected and looked after. For a person with special needs, everything is catered for. Easy access to buildings, books to read and all other related facilities are available, which make my stay here ever more enjoyable.”
“I wanted to make friends with people from other cultures, which was a bit difficult in the start. ANU is an international place and there are very few native Australians here. People from other countries sometimes have language issues and tend to limit themselves to their own communities , but with time it got better and everyone relaxed and got used to people from different backgrounds” .
“I used to feel why me, but now I know it had to be me because I have a purpose in life. I am going to work towards giving back to society as a token of gratitude for what all has been made available for me. After completing my degree , I do not see myself as someone making money for a corporation but someone who is trying to help and make things better for people in need. Particularly, people like me who have special needs. I am ready to sacrifice my personal life for my aim to be of help and to make a difference.”
“I would like to tell people who have disabilities that you can do anything. You might find it hard to be convinced if it were coming from someone who has no idea of how difficult life is for you, but you must understand that I am one of you. I go through what you go though and I can relate to your struggle. You must believe in your self and never give up. You can achieve anything you want if you set your mind to it and work towards your goals .And you are the only person who can make it happen for you. Life is beautiful!”