As a young woman living with Spina Bifida, a spinal cord defect that occurs when the lower part of the spine isn’t fully formed, life for me hasn’t been a walk in the park. Yet, with support and resources in the community, in pursuing my ambitions there is no such thing as can’t.
World Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Day, observed on the 25th of October, is a global initiative to raise awareness and understanding of these two conditions, which affect the spine and brain. It is also an occasion to advocate for the rights of those living with these conditions and to promote their inclusion in society.
On this day, it is crucial to shed light on the remarkable potential that we individuals living with Spina Bifida hold within ourselves, particularly in the professional world. Often, society’s perception tends to limit career options for people with Spina Bifida to desk jobs, but it’s high time we change that mindset.
I’ve experienced first-hand the transformative power of mentorship in my journey towards pursuing a non-traditional career path. This is why I firmly believe in the need to encourage those with Spina Bifida to follow their dreams, shift the paradigm away from restrictive career choices, and highlight the vital role of mentorship in their professional growth.
Choosing encouragement over discouragement
The first step toward empowering individuals with Spina Bifida is to encourage the pursuit of their dreams instead of discouraging it. This means not imposing preconceived notions about what they can or cannot achieve in their careers. Spina Bifida is just one aspect of our identity, not a determinant of our potential. We need to foster an environment where we can explore diverse career paths and aim for success in any field we choose.
Expanding career horizons
Another essential step towards inclusivity is to move away from the outdated mentality that people with Spina Bifida can succeed in certain jobs but not in others. Instead, we should encourage them to explore a wide range of careers, including those that may not have been traditionally associated with their condition. Two such areas that are ripe with opportunities are world of digital marketing and public relations.
Digital marketing is a dynamic field that relies on creativity, communication, and adaptability. People with Spina Bifida often possess excellent problem-solving skills and adaptability, which can be invaluable in this industry.
Public relations, on the other hand, requires effective communication and relationship-building, qualities that are not confined to one’s physical abilities. These industries are perfect examples of how individuals with Spina Bifida can thrive and excel.
The power of mentorship
In my personal journey, mentorship has played a crucial role. Mentorships are not just a source of guidance; they’re a lifeline of encouragement, support, and empowerment.
Having a mentor who believes in your potential can be a game-changer. Mentorship programmes that include individuals with Spina Bifida can be beneficial in providing them the guidance and confidence necessary to pursue their dreams.
When I decided to pursue a career in communications and started telling people about it, skepticism was a common response. However, I was fortunate enough to connect with a mentor who focused on my abilities, not my limitations. With their guidance, I learned the ins and outs of the industry, honed my skills, and developed a deep sense of self-belief.
Today, I work in communications, a role in which my Spina Bifida doesn’t hinder my progress. I am convinced that my mentor’s unwavering support was instrumental in following my path, and I also believe that this story can be replicated for others.
The need for mentorship programmes
To foster the success of individuals with Spina Bifida in non-traditional career paths, mentorship programmes need to be more inclusive and accessible to people living with the condition.
Such programmes should focus on providing guidance, fostering self-confidence, and creating a supportive network of mentors who believe in the potential of those they are guiding.
In addition, they should also be able to cater for the specific needs and challenges faced by individuals with Spina Bifida, such as by providing transportation to the sessions.
On World Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Day, we celebrate the diversity and potential of individuals living with this condition. It is a day to highlight their achievements, inspire others, and remind the world that there are no limits to what any individual can achieve.
By encouraging ambition, expanding career horizons, and emphasising the power of mentorship, we can pave the way for a more inclusive and diverse professional world.
On this Day, I hope to encourage fellow Spina Bifida warriors to pursue their dreams and broaden their career horizons, while imploring different entities to establish mentorship programmes that empower these individuals to pursue the careers of their choice.
Together we can make the professional world a more inclusive and diverse place, where Spina Bifida is not a barrier but a unique strength that enriches our workplaces and communities.