Over 7 years ago, Muniba Mazari, a Pakistani woman, became a wheelchair user when she suffered a spinal cord injury from a car accident. Since then, Muniba has worked hard to achieve much with her life, and two of her major milestones include becoming a mother and an artist.
Being a mother has taught Muniba about the things she can accomplish. She defied others who said that she could not be a mother. Muniba adopted her son when he was 2 days old; he is now 4 years old, and has grown up to be understanding and insightful. In particular, her son has gifted her with many life lessons. He has encouraged her to persevere during times when she felt like losing hope. One of Muniba’s most memorable lessons from her son was to look for alternative possibilities. When he wanted to kick the football around with her, Muniba told him that she could not do so because her legs were not working.
Rather than giving up this opportunity to play with his mother, he replied, “It’s okay. Be strong. Let’s play catch the ball [instead] because your arms are working.”
Likewise, art has provided Muniba a platform for her to embrace the ups and downs of her life and to express herself authentically. In the past, Muniba found herself putting up a façade when people discouraged her or undermined her abilities as a wheelchair user. Yet, when she paints, she finds that she does not have to pretend anymore. For stories that Muniba is unable to discuss verbally, she uses art to tell them. Her art is emotive and personal – it is a reflection of her and allows her to truly be herself.
“Art is something where you don’t have to be pretentious. You just paint your heart out. You feel something and you paint.”
Before her accident, Muniba recalls that she was “just an ordinary person doing nothing,” and had no aim in life. Now, she has gained a newfound determination to prove herself, and also to prove to society that people with disabilities are capable of so much more. “You cannot judge a person on a wheelchair. We are strong. We may be broken physically but we are strong emotionally,” she asserts.
With her voice empowered through being a mother and through art, Muniba hopes that more people with disabilities in Pakistan can find their own empowerment. “Disability is a taboo in Pakistan,” she explains. People with disabilities, especially children, are shielded from the public eye from fear of society being unsympathetic towards them.
“We really need to go out and we need to talk to people about this. Go out more on a wheelchair and they will not treat you as an invalid.”
Stepping out and bringing her voice into the public, Muniba hopes to motivate many others like her to take the same step out in pushing for a change in Pakistani culture and attitudes.
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