Melvin Vouga is 27 years old and comes from Marau on the eastern end of Guadalcanal. Melvin was only 4 years old when she was in a serious vehicle accident, she was gravely injured which resulted in a permanent disability.
"Life is incomplete for people with disabilities, because everywhere I go people always look at me, at how I walk and how I talk with people,” Melvin said, slightly self-conscious but determined to tell her story.
“I was not born with this disability, I was a normal kid growing up, everything changed after the accident,” Melvin recalls.
She said she was too young to remember the incident, but she has lived with the aftermath.
She said her family has been her biggest support, always treating her the same and pushing her to get a decent education.
Melvin did her secondary school at Tenaru and Selwyn college, and never allowed her disability to limit her education.
“As a girl sometimes it is challenging, I try to be strong, but I do face discrimination and it does lead to self-pity and negative thoughts. But I do not allow such negativity to grow in me and hold me back,” a determined Melvin said.
Melvin says that her perception on people with disabilities changed when she attended a mentor training at the YWCA March last year, the theme was “Girls Rise Up.”
“The mentor training made me understand what my rights are as a person living with a disability, and it also helped me understand that access to information is important for vulnerable people.
“I want to be more involved in issues that affect the vulnerable people in my community, such as teenage pregnancy, and related to that, single mothers and their children. The issue of people with disabilities is also always going to be close to me.
“So, it is about giving them advise on the kind of information they may need or the right organizations or agencies that they can talk to for help,” Melvin says with a sense of purpose.
Melvin says another issue that is of interest to her is climate change, simply because vulnerable groups in any community are always going to be affected disproportionately. She is currently doing part time work as a climate change officer, something she enjoys.
She says that as a person living with a disability, she always prefers to talk about what she does and who she is - and not focus on her disability. She says people sometimes find it difficult to look beyond persons disability.
She says civil society organizations should always have inclusiveness as the forefront of any program design, this will help empower people like her – she says the more empowered a person is the more engaged they will be, which to her is very important.