Anna-Lisa Paul and Bobie-Lee Dixon
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Vera Bhajan: ‘The only real disability is a bad attitude’
Turning weaknesses into strengths, adversities into fortunes and tears of sorrow into cheers of triumph. That is the power of a woman. That power was highlighted yesterday as attorney Vera Bhajan and retired assistant commissioner of police, Margaret Sampson-Browne, shared their empowering life stories at the Ministry of Community Development Victoria East International Women’s Day 2012 panel discussion at the Barrackpore Regional Complex.
Sampson-Browne, who was moved to tears during her speech as she related her struggles, urged women in the audience to “make every challenge a stepping stone.” “Even if you are in a situation strive to be better, even if you are in a good situation strive for better,” she said. She urged the women to be motivated by the examples around them whether they were “positive or negative.”
Sampson-Browne said, “The journey becomes easier when you look at your brother and sister and help them along the way. When you start to make a contribution to your community.” She added, “The community does not belong to the community development people, they have a role, and we have a responsibility.” The retired senior policewoman said in her career she faced difficulties and overcame them.
She wiped tears away as she recalled her tribulations in 1972 when she became pregnant, an unwed mother. Sampson-Browne said at that time in the police service that was not allowed and she was suspended. Her son, she said, died. “They took my uniform, suspended me. Jason (her son) did not survive. It was a milestone in the police service. At that time there were barriers and I dared to cross it,” she said.
Bhajan, who despite being born with no arms, shared her story of overcoming all obstacles to become an attorney. “I do not see myself as disabled, there are people who have both arms are disabled. The only real disability in this world is a bad attitude,” Bhajan told the packed audience. She was the feature speaker. The event was organised to commemorate International Women’s Day which is usually celebrated on March 8.