Voice for Change
Getting to know BCCIC’s delegation to CSW64
Written by Anu Pala
Since childhood, and now in adulthood, I have been known to be a head-strong person, someone who always has something to say, and always takes risks. My interpretation of this is being determined/tenacious, self expressive/communicative, adventurous/a go-getter. A few years back, I had the opportunity to watch Oprah live in Vancouver. There is one message that she shared that night which resonated with me and still does to this day. She encouraged us all to reflect back on our childhood and think about the thoughts and experiences we had and then try and connect the threads. “Once we begin to connect the threads, we can begin to make the connections as to how those thoughts, experiences, and influences helped shape us into becoming who we are today.” This was a defining moment for me!
That night, after Oprah’s talk, I began to reflect back on my early years. I thought about certain situations and people who have stood out in my life, and I was actually able to connect the threads which confirmed my life purpose. I have always known that I am creative, a communicator, a giver, and wanted to work in a field that would allow me to do meaningful work and create positive change. My radio background, public speaking, coaching and non-profit experience are just some examples of what has helped me develop the necessary skills to achieve success. Throughout my journey, I have encountered various allies, mentors, and friends who believed in me and encouraged me to use my voice to inspire, educate, and empower.
After losing my vision in 1991, I took some time to come to terms with my reality, but once I did, I began to understand how I could turn my adversity into strength, inspiration, and purpose. As a woman of colour who happens to live with vision loss, I realized that I am in a unique position to use my voice, my experiences, and my journey of vision loss to raise awareness regarding disabilities, empower women to recognize their strengths, and advocate for change. That is when I made the connection. Through my work, I have spoken at several conferences and workshops about the myths and stereotypes that are linked to women with disabilities, the challenges that we face, to highlight the strengths that we bring, to promote inclusion in the workplace, home, and in our communities, and advocate for equality. People living with disabilities are often looked at as charity cases rather than as strong, educated, and capable people. My philosophy is that everyone brings something to the table and should be treated equally despite their situation.
While the majority of my work has been carried out in Canada, I had a wonderful opportunity to make a difference in my country of birth. In 2018, while completing my BA in professional communications at Royal Roads University, I was granted a scholarship through the Erving K. Barber One World Scholarship to conduct an international study. I chose to carry out a research project in Fiji to explore the barriers of blind and visually impaired youth and adults. The key areas that I focussed on were education, employment, and social inclusion. I learned about the challenges and needs for this population from teachers, students, and advocates. This meant so much to me as I was given an international platform to not only learn about their challenges and barriers, but also to share my own personal stories and to make a greater impact. I look forward to using my findings from the study to create and deliver much needed programs to help improve the lives of Fijians living with vision loss. In addition, My hope is to work with the Fijian government to improve services.
I am very excited to attend CSW64 as it will allow me to meet like-minded people who also want to be agents of positive change in the world. I encourage you to take some time and try to connect the threads of your life to see what continues to resonate for you.
This blog post was written by Anu Pala, BCCIC delegate to CSW64 in 2020.