Ballarat women with disabilities gain confidence in leadership program

A Ballarat leadership program has helped women with disabilities to gain confidence and build self esteem.

GAINING CONFIDENCE: Michelle, Tanya and Fiona are proud to graduate from the Enabling Women Community Leadership program for women with disabilities. Picture: Rochelle Kirkham

GAINING CONFIDENCE: Michelle, Tanya and Fiona are proud to graduate from the Enabling Women Community Leadership program for women with disabilities. Picture: Rochelle Kirkham

Eight women graduated from the Enabling Women Community Leadership Program on Thursday with a new-found ability to stand up for their rights and make their voice heard.

Participants attended the weekly Women with Disabilities Victoria run workshops over a period of six weeks.

Ballarat resident and program participant Tanya Hale said the program helped her gain the confidence to work to publish her book about living with Asperger’s Syndrome, when in the past she had felt anxious about communicating with publishers.

“Twelve years ago when I was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome I took a brochure from the clinic where I was diagnosed. There was this paragraph that stood out, that it is only when the community understand Asperger's Syndrome that people with Asperger’s can live their life to their full potential. I want to help people understand through my book,” Ms Hale said.

“If people understood Asperger’s I would be able to get out there, live my life and interact with people without having to contend with the downsides of having to live with my condition. People with Asperger’s are just as different and unique as people without Asperger’s.”

Graduates of the Enabling Women Community Leadership Program.

Graduates of the Enabling Women Community Leadership Program.

Fellow program participant Fiona Sanders said learning about leadership and communication skills while meeting new friends had helped re-build her self-esteem.

“It is important to recognise that everyone with a disability is different. It is the person first, not their disability, but a lot of people see people as the disability first,” Ms Sanders said.

“Everybody is different in their own special way and I think we have to stop putting a stigma behind mental illness and disability, because really we are all the same, it just affects different people different ways.”

Another participant said that before the program, she felt living life with a disability was ruled by fate. 

“I can now go out there and decide my life and make my own decisions and not let fate control it,” she said. 

A mentoring program ran alongside the leadership workshops, where mentors helped participants achieve their individual goals.

Visit http://www.wdv.org.au/index.htm for more information about Women with Disabilities Victoria.

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