Disability: Not an inability..The Story of Farida Bedwei

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When one hears the word “disability”, we immediately think negatively because of all the bad connotations linked with the term. Most people think it means an inability, the dictionary tells us that disability means “a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities.” For this phenomenal woman however, her disability definitely did not limit her nor did it hinder her from following her dreams. Let me introduce you to Farida Bedwei.

Born in 1979, Farida Bedwei is a software engineer from Ghana who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of one. Cerebral palsy refers to an incurable neurological disorder that permanently affects body movement, posture as well as muscle coordination. Although she was born in Lagos, Nigeria, she spent most of her childhood years in Dominica, Grenada and the United Kingdom and later moved to Ghana where she is now a top Software Engineer. Her mother home-schooled her until the age of 12 mainly because of her condition. She then moved to a government school where she excelled academically which came as a surprise to everyone because of her condition.

Against all odds…

While at the mainstream school, her family noticed her passion for computers and decided that she skips senior high school and register in a one-year computer course at the St. Michael Information Technology Centre at just 15 years old, making her the youngest in the class. For most, this was seen as a challenge but for Bedwei, it was a milestone. It was through the computer course that Bedwei realised she wanted to specialize in software engineering. What attracted her to that particular aspect of IT was the idea of solving problems and being innovative in the process.

“All my life, I’ve been told to remove the word ‘I can’t’ from my vocabulary and to atleast replace it with ‘I’ll try’

Determined not to let her condition limit her dream, she moved on to obtain two Diplomas and a BSc degree in Computer Science. After her graduation, while searching for a job, she decided to go and see the head of the technical division at Soft (a leading software company in the area). Confident that she would add value to the company, she managed to convince him to give her a chance even though she didn’t have experience and that’s where she found her dream role.

After three years, Bedwei decided to move on and soon found work as a senior software architect at Rancard Solutions where she stayed for nine years. In 2010, she started working for G-Life Financial Services where she saw a gap in the market and decided to go for it. The system the company was using wasn’t adequate for micro-financing so along with a fellow colleague, they started building their own cloud software platform. They called it “gKudi” and it has been much helpful to the micro-financing industry in Ghana. It’s helping with effective decision-making, cutting out fraud and to give loans to those in need.

Definition of a miracle…

Bedwei is not just a tech guru, she is also a celebrated author. Her debut novel, Definition of a miracle, was launched in 2010. She wrote the book for two reasons; to show the West a different perspective about Africa and to give Africans a new perspective on people living with disabilities.

Although not an autobiography, Definition of a Miracle is about an 8 year old diagnosed with cerebral palsy from birth and it also gives people a portrayal of the physical discomforts and emotional pain caused by public intolerance that people living with the condition have to deal with daily.

 

She has been involved in the development and management of value added service for the primary network providers in Africa. She is passionate about poverty alleviation and other ways of helping the needy. Bedwei has also won many awards including the 2012 Special Award by President John Mahama of Ghana, the Maiden Award 2011 and of course the 2013 CEO Most Influential Women in Business and Government Award in the Financial Sector.

Farida Bedwei has, without doubt, proved that disability does not mean disadvantage. Her drive, passion and determination have made it possible for her to rise above her condition becoming one of the most successful and influential women in the continent.

Now “disability” looks a whole lot different, doesn’t it?!

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