The Story of a Kenyan Disability Rights Advocate
October 25, 2018
I am Rebecca Alitsi. I was born with a condition called 'spina bifida'. My parents moved to the city from our village, after my birth to provide better healthcare for me. My earliest memory of my childhood is going from one hospital to another in search of more information and better treatment for the disability caused by spina bifida.
My biggest challenge was getting admission into a regular school. Even after getting admitted and excelling in academics, nobody spoke to me, or even sat near me throughout my school life. On days when I came home crying from school, my mother and sisters would tell me that because of my disability I may not be able to do physical work, but I can always put my intelligence to good use. When I was in Grade 5, the school suddenly decided that I didn't fit in and expelled me. My parents spoke to a lawyer and decided to sue the school and only then did they take me back as they feared a lawsuit.
After school, I pursued Developmental Studies from Tangaza University College in Kenya. In college I started volunteering with the International Organization for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus and became a self-advocate. I moved to Tanzania after college to help co-found an organization called 'Kuwezesha Kupaa' (means: enabling to fly in Swahili) for children with disabilities. After 5 years in Tanzania I felt it was time to fly.
I got a fellowship with the International Disability Alliance and I was absorbed as an Advocate for the International Federation for Spina Bifida. Today I work as a Disability Rights Advocate and travel the world learning about the conventions of rights of persons with disabilities. I try to impart as much knowledge as I can so that people and children with 'spina bifida' are spared the suffering that I endured as a child