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From Australia Awards to motherhood: the inspiring story of a Nepalese alum with disability

Posted: 2 March 2022

Nepal, Alumni, Disability, Experience, Impact, Inclusion,

Australia Awards alum Rajuna Singh from Nepal is fully dependent on a wheelchair for mobility. She has faced, and overcome, many obstacles due to her disability, including travelling to Australia in 2018 to complete a Master of Special Education from Flinders University, through an Australia Awards Scholarship.

Rajuna always dreamed of becoming a mother but saw it as being out of her reach. However, while living in Australia, and connecting with others facing similar challenges, she saw that this innate desire could be possible.

“I was inspired to have a baby after staying and studying in Australia,” says Rajuna. “I learnt there are many wheelchair users who became mothers. I also did some research on how it is possible. I realised that having special needs should not limit my ability to become a mother. This is one of the greatest lessons I learnt from Australia.”

She adds, “During my study at Flinders University, I was a member of the Flinders University Students with Disabilities Association (FUSDA), where I made friends who had different types of disability belonging to different countries. They also had children. They managed their children well despite their disability, which further inspired me to be a mother.”

In 2020, Rajuna discovered to her immense joy that she was pregnant but knowing the many challenges that lay ahead, she kept the news to herself at first. “When I found out I was expecting, I was overjoyed in my heart, but at the same time I could see the challenges which lay ahead,” she says, wary of the limited availability of accessible hospitals and medical services in her country. Understanding the main problem was accessibility rather than her disability, as a first step, Rajuna and her husband adapted their vehicle to her special needs.

Rajuna’s vehicle with wheelchair accessibility

Rajuna and her husband’s decision to keep her pregnancy private was also to avoid receiving unwanted, negative attention. “In our society, marriage for a girl with disability is not common. Childbearing can be more challenging socially,” says Rajuna. Apart from a few family members and doctors, nobody knew about her pregnancy.

Despite enduring many challenges throughout her pregnancy and a complicated birth, Rajuna and her husband were blessed with a healthy baby boy in April 2021. “When my relatives and friends learnt about my delivery through Facebook, they could not believe that I had a baby. It came as a wonderful surprise to them,” says Rajuna.

Rajuna with her husband Shyam Narayan Shrestha (Joel) and son Evan

Today, with continued determination and strength of character, Rajuna continues to face head-on the many hurdles and obstacles as a young mother with disability. She credits her husband Shyam Narayan Shrestha (Joel) as her caring supporter and true life partner. Motherhood brings her joy, but without his immense support and the knowledge acquired in Australia she would have struggled to raise a child.

“I have learnt a lot through the barriers and challenges that have come up in my life. Especially being a woman with disability. But I strongly believe that I overcame all those limitations and hurdles in  becoming a mother. I can now say with complete assurance that my life has become truly more blessed than ever before,” says Rajuna.

Rajuna is a Special Education Teacher at Self-help Group for Cerebral Palsy, Nepal, where she works on curriculum development, individual education plans for children with special needs and trains teachers on special education and related technologies.