Group empowers young women with disabilities

September 18, 2008 10:43:34 AM PDT
Independence means being able to make your own decisions about your life, but for young women with disabilities this is not easy. With support from a unique group, many are learning how to stand up and take control of their lives.

Ten years ago at Chicago's Access Living, the Empowered FeFes was created for young Chicago area women with disabilities from the ages of 13 to 24 years.

This one of a kind group has given many young women the tools to become independent.

Twenty-one-year-old Sandra Husic has wanted to live on her own since she was a teenager. Her biggest challenge was becoming confident enough to do it. After high school, she got involved with Empowered FeFes.

"They teach me how to write a resume, how to look for jobs and stuff which I'm still doing and they support me if I need somebody to talk to and stuff. If it wasn't for them, I'd be trapped in a house and staff with my parents," said Husic.

Girls' program coordinator, Ana Mercado says so many young women have no positive outlook on their lives.

"Because there's not a lot of support in other areas of their lives around disability because disability is seen as a program, it's seen as some kind of tragedy, something that's so shameful that you can't really talk about it," said Mercado. "This is a space that it's actually safe to talk about issues around your disability and how it affects your life as a girl and it's a way to combat some of that shame."

Empowered FeFes has created three documentaries that highlight the different significant experiences of young women with disabilities.

"The first one was in general about being a girl with a disability and some of the issues they face," said Mercado. "It won so many awards that they decided to go again and focus on sexuality and disability." One is called, "Why They Gotta do me Like That?: The FeFes Take on Bullying."

The Empowered FeFes meet every other Saturday. This summer they traveled to Detroit to talk about their group and videos. They are reproducing this group around the country. For more information call 312-640-2190 or go to www.accessliving.org .


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