Joyce Napuat attended the 13th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women and 6th Meeting of Pacific Ministers for Women in Suva in early October 2017.
Recently nominated as one of SPC’s 70 Inspiring Women, Joyce is an advocate for people with a disability and believes that every disabled child offers a special talent to the world.
Joyce Napuat, Development Facilitator, World Vision
One of the biggest barriers that I have seen in the lives of girls with a disability is that communities don’t recognize them as human beings. From my own personal experience, I have found that they don’t even give her a chance to use her voice.
For example, most churches have youth programs where disabled people are actively involved. But when it comes to electing a new committee, they won’t give her the opportunity to be elected, because they think she hasn’t got a brain.
They just assume that because she has a disability, then she doesn’t need to be included. Even the Sunday school teachers won’t support the girls with disabilities to be part of the church committee and treat them like they are ‘nobodies’.
There is also this cultural misconception that if she joins the group or physically comes too close to them, then something bad will happen. For example, if a woman is pregnant, they don’t want a disabled woman near her because they are afraid that the unborn child will become disabled too. I have experienced that and it really hurts. This kind of discrimination has even come from my neighbors and my own family too.
They will say things like ‘Don’t go close to Joyce. If you go close to her, your child is going to become like her’. Throughout my whole life, I have had to face negative comments like that. Even when I was a child, other children would laugh at me and call me ‘broken leg’. Just having dignity and basic human rights is a huge barrier for people with disability.
Now I am an advocate for people with a disability and I want their voices to be heard. Disabled people have special gifts and talents that they can use to improve their own life and help build their community.
Since I have left the island and started preaching for the rights of people with disability, I can slowly see some disabled people breaking from their chains. But most of them are still shy because they are still healing from the negative words that their family has said to them. It really brings them down when they get called names.
It is through the support of my grandmother that I am strong. The negative things that people said about me didn’t influence her. People told her that she was wasting her time on me. They also told her that she was wasting her money to pay for my school fees because they thought I wouldn’t be able to do anything for her in the future. I am so thankful that she never gave up on me.
I want every woman, whether they have a disability or not, to know your rights and to also know that you have a voice and talents that God has given you to make this world better.
As long as I’m alive, I will use my voice and advocate to parents of children with a disability to remind them about their children’s rights to health and education. It’s my passion to be a role model for children with a disability. For me, I look beyond disability and believe that everyone matters and there is always a way.
Joyce is a Development Facilitator at World Vision Vanuatu and was sponsored by Care International to attend the Triennial