It is difficult to imagine that a woman with both physical and mental disability could accomplish something that even normal people cannot hope to achieve. Indeed, what Shewli Shathi has done can be considered a miracle.
Shathi, 27, was born into a poor family in Dhaka and was unable to walk until she was 15-years old. She is also autistic. Her neighbours often taunted her. They never thought that she would be able to overcome her disabilities and become a success.
With extraordinary courage and determination, Shathi defied all the hurdles along the way. In fact, she already has won medals in national and international sports competitions, including the Special Olympics.
Shathi brought home two silver medals and a bronze in badminton in the Special Olympics World Summer Games held in 2007 in Shanghai, China.
She also gained five gold medals in bocce in the first Asia Pacific Special Olympics in Brunei in 2009 and in the 4th Asia Pacific Special Olympics also held in Brunei in 2012.
She has recently become a household name in Bangladesh after the country’s largest cell phone company highlighted her achievement on TV and billboards were erected in Dhaka’s streets.
“We believe that highlighting her achievement would actually inspire the young generation to cross all barriers in life and go beyond their ability and give honour to the nation,” said Tahmeed Azizul Huq, head of corporate communications of Grameen Phone Limited.
Kazi Bilkis Begum, Shathi’s sports trainer, said she comes from a family living in a slum. She has no money for training. But with her indomitable willpower and sheer courage, she was able to excel in her chosen sport.
Talking with Xinhua in a recent interview, Shathi said that her physical and mental conditions have improved since she was admitted to a special education school for children run by the Society for the Welfare of the Intellectually Disabled Bangladesh (SWID) in 2000, where she learned how to play bocce and badminton. She has been playing bocce and badminton for 10 years now.
“As I’ve got inspiration from others, I will also want to inspire others who are like me,” said Shathi, who is now a teaching assistant for autistic children at the SWID.
Shathi said she wanted to change people’s attitudes and perceptions toward the mentally and physically disabled members of society.
“I want to do something for them. I want to improve their lives in my own way,” she added.
Shathi is also helping support her four-member family with her meagre income of 1,800 taka ($22.5) per month from SWID which is not even enough to meet her training cost.
It’s not easy for her to find a job elsewhere because she is autistic. But Shathi has decided to compete in more international sporting events in the future to show to the rest of the world that people with disability can go beyond their limits.