Sisterspeak237, a platform that amplifies the voices of women and minority groups in Cameroon has staged the first ever fashion show for women with disabilities to promote acceptance and removal of barriers that the disabled face in the country.
The innovative fashion show that took place on March 30, 2019 at Djuega Palace Hotel Yaoundé saw 12 models living with disability proudly walked down the runway, showcasing a variety of outfits by local designers designed to meet their special needs.
A group of beaming female models with various forms of disabilities including models with amputations, models in wheelchairs and models who use walkers used the platform to call for inclusive development in Cameroon and decried discrimination, prejudice and violence against persons with disabilities.
The event which was accessible and inclusive in concept and implementation saw the impressive presence of disability stakeholders, diplomatic services amongst others.
The women did not only parade on the run way but took time to address the crowd and shared their success stories in the fields of accountancy, athletics, translation, journalism, business, administration amongst others demystifying the myth that “disability is not an inability”.
According to Comfort Mussa, founder of Sisterspeak237 and the brain behind the “laudable” initiative, “#Access2019 is more than just a fashion show for women/girls with disability.
“We decided to organize this fashion show for women with a disability because we wanted to confront that challenge that this community has been invincible and unheard. On the run way we are amplifying the visibility of women with a disability” she observed.
The Award-winning journalist reiterated that “over 15 media organs that are going back to their audiences with the pictures of models who are strong, beautiful and confident and this we hope shall destroy the myth that surrounds societies understanding of women with disability”.
The Need For Adaptive And Accessible Clothing Design Reiterated
The event dubbed #ACCESS2019 Fashion Show for Women with Disabilities also highlighted the need for accessibility in stores and changerooms; adaptive and accessible clothing design; and more diverse and authentic representation of people with disabilities in the fashion media in Cameroon.
Several Cameroonian stylists and designers who who answered present pledged their support mission to change perceptions about people living with disability as the models living with disability proudly walked down the runway.
They acknowledged that their designs had over the years not taken persons with disabilities into consideration leaving away a huge market.
Participants All Smiles
While appreciating Sisterspeak237 for giving them a platform to advocate for their inclusion in society, Acha Rita who has mobility problems expressed the need for government and other stakeholders to make infrastructure in the country more accessible.
“Access 2019 means a lot to me. At times we scarcely have platforms where women with a disability can echo issues that are related to them, how they perceive life, their aspiration, their dreams and how they intend to be participants in terms of development and in terms of being mainstreamed in fashion and other aspects of public life. We have challenges in terms of accessibility into infrastructures and accessibility to communication”.
Fonda Violet, one of the participants on her part while thanking Sisterspeak237 for the initiative used the platform to advocate for accessibility in the transport sector in the country.
“It imparts me as a woman with a disability because I now know that I’m valued by the society, I know I’m more exposed to the society and I now know our concerns have been heard by the society. The transport system in Cameroon especially the travel agencies are still a problem. Their buses are so high in such a way that persons on wheel chair or with crutches cannot access it” she regretted.
The fashion show is one of the initiatives undertaken by Sisterspeak237 to amplify the voices of women with disabilities in Cameroon.
By Njodzefe Nestor