Stephen Hawking, the great English theoretical physicist, cosmologist and author once said, “My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn't prevent you doing well, and don't regret the things it interferes with. Don't be disabled in spirit as well as physically”. I believe, to inspire the people living with disability, nothing can be better than such inspiration. Yes, it's true that disability is not a blessing, but Jannatul Ferdous Ivy, a star of our times, has proven that it is not a curse either.
From when she was born in 1976, till 1997 Ivy was just another person- like you and me. While pursuing her primary education in a compound of a Christian Missionary Church at Khulna, she sowed the seed of secularism all through her life. But, in 1997, while she was studying Bachelor of Science (B. SC) in physics at BL College, Khulna, a severe fire accident destroyed stability in her life. The accident burnt 60 percent of her body and she luckily survived with the treatment of the doctors and the nurture of her family members. But, she lost her rhythm in life. She became a woman with a disability.
However, in 2005 Ivy completed her first graduation in English Literature from National University of Bangladesh. She had a tough time pursuing the degree, having difficulties leading the life of a student with her disability. While she was preparing notes from books this one time, she questioned why she couldn't prepare them without the help of books- and that is when she began writing herself.
Meanwhile, the expensive burn treatments had become a financial issue for her father, which made Ivy yearn for independence and her own financial freedom. She felt that a woman should be self dependent in any condition. So, after the completion of her graduation, she began her career as a Human Rights Promoter in 'Action on Disability and Development (ADD)', a British Non-Government Organisation in Bangladesh.
“That was may be the first time after my disability; I found a place where I felt a sense of belonging, where I am not 'the different one' ”, says Ivy. “Though I started as a beginner, my passion for work drove me to dream bigger and do unimaginable things”, she adds.
While working on the pre-school project with disabled children in the slums, sometimes making people especially women, aware of their rights created a purpose in her life. She acquired a scholarship from her organisation to complete her Master's in Development Studies from BRAC University. Later, she worked in the National Council of Disabled Women (NCDW), Handicap International, Disabled Rehabilitation and Research Association (DRRA), Refugee Movement and Migratory Research Unit (RMMRU).
In 2012, Ivy produced her first film 'Nirobey (Silently)', depicting the struggle of a female NGO worker. She wrote the story and script of the film in accordance with her different working experiences in different NGOs. Even though, South Asian Women Fund offered financial support for 'Nirobey', Ivy declined and took care of it herself.
She is, by some, regarded the first disabled woman filmmaker in Bangladesh; and the only one internationally who participated in the Dhaka International Film Festival, 2016.
The film has also been screened in the 'KynnysKINO 2013 film festival' in Finland, the first from Bangladesh to be ever selected, where Ivy got warm appreciation from the organisers. But to her, the most appreciable thing was achieving honour from 'Bangladesh Mahila Parishad'. One of the very few objectives of Ivy, through the film, was showing the film to the people who work with women rights. And, she is now in the limelight.
Ivy's passion, enthusiasm and motivation for doing something good for the people with disability have been driving her to write for humanity. She has written a number of books—one bilateral, one novel, a commemorative book on Ahmed Sofa- the great Bangladeshi intellectual, several articles on “Gender Encyclopedia” edited by Selina Hossain, and many more. Ivy is still writing and plans on becoming a well-known writer in the future.
Recently, Ivy has started her own organisation-- Voice & Views (V&V) -- to have proper research based data on women and children of Bangladesh, and to raise the voices of women with disabilities.
Ivy never thought that she could smile again, enjoy the raindrops, feel the breeze, or the regular activities of life. But her passion has helped her bring herself back on her own two feet. Breaking thousands of stereotypes, ignorance and barriers, she has brought positivity into her own life. Now, she believes disability is not inability, and her many abilities are stronger than her disability.