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“Emirati Teen Overcomes Spine Condition: From Wheelchair to Powerlifting Championships, Advocating for Disability Rights”

Emirati Teen Fatima Lanjawi was born with spina bifida, a condition that affects the development of the spinal cord. Now 17 years old, she has undergone numerous surgeries and treatments throughout her life. However, she has never allowed her disability to define her or restrict her dreams.

A Quest for Independence

In 2019, Fatima set a remarkable goal for herself: to achieve greater independence and reduce her reliance on others for assistance. Encouraged by her parents, she took brave steps outside her comfort zone, embarking on a journey toward self-sufficiency. She made the decision to attend 8th grade without an assistant, despite initial resistance from the school administration.

Fatima’s Determination

“I wanted to be more independent and not rely on someone for help. At first, the school refused to let me attend without a helper, but with my parents’ support, we obtained approval from the Ministry of Education,” Fatima explained.

Leadership Despite Challenges

Fatima’s journey continued as she participated in one of Dubai Police’s summer programs and was selected as the graduation leader. This was a proud moment that showcased her capabilities, proving that her wheelchair did not limit her leadership abilities.

Breaking Barriers

Fatima’s determination led her to engage in various volunteer programs, courses, and work experiences, constantly seeking opportunities to gain skills and help others. In 2022, a memorable two-week job as a barista had a profound impact on her confidence and sociability.

Personal Growth Through Education

Fatima pursued education in various fields, earning certificates in health science, coding, and cybersecurity. Her intellectual curiosity and desire for knowledge led her to enrich her background in various university majors.

Advocacy and Empowerment

Participating in events like the 2023 Powerlifting World Championship, Fatima found great fulfillment. Surrounded by supportive mentors and friends, she gained invaluable experience and worked to raise awareness about disability rights. Her advocacy aims to break stereotypes and foster positive mindsets.

Youth Council and Self-Acceptance

One of Fatima’s proudest achievements is her service on the Dubai Club for People of Determination’s youth council. This experience opened doors for relationship-building, leadership skills, and an understanding of policy issues affecting the disabled community. She attributes her success to her family’s unwavering support and her strong Muslim faith, which instilled in her self-acceptance and resilience.

Empowering Message: Emirati Teen

Fatima has an empowering message for young people with disabilities: “Disability won’t stop us from living and achieving in life.”

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