Shamla Maharaj is the founder of AbNormal Progress under the function as a coach/consultant targeting the corporate sector on policy and benefits of such for diversity and social inclusion in businesses. Having been born with cerebral palsy from birth, she is insistent on proving that a person with a disability can live a full life once the opportunity is created. As a freelance host/producer of TTT’S NOW Morning Show segment ‘Unique Not Different’ Shamla features Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) who are thriving in society, allowing them a platform to share their stories. She also sat on the Advisory Council Board to the National Strategic Plan for Child Development. Shamla has a BSc Agribusiness Management, MSc Marketing and Agribusiness (Business and Marketing Analysis Specialisation) and is currently pursuing her MPhil/PhD in Agricultural Economics with a specialisation in Marketing.
Shamla is also a co-author of an Amazon Bestseller, Journey to Success Volume II, and is an International Keynote Speaker having represented Trinidad and Tobago at UNESCO’s 8th World Youth Forum in Paris, France. She was one of six worldwide delegates, which included UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova, to be an opening speaker in 2013 and happened to be the only person with a disability. She also contributed to the debate that made it into the introduction of the final recommendation of the theme “Social Inclusion, Civic Engagement, Dialogue and Skills Development”, to be presented at their General Conference. Shamla represented as a Social Ambassador at UNESCO’s Management of Social Transformations (MOST) conference for Latin American and Caribbean countries. She has shown true prowess as she continues to chase her dreams regardless of being a PWD. The WE Magazine Team got some time to chat with Shamla. This is her story “Against all Odds”.
What has it been like living with cerebral palsy and how have you been able to continue to persevere in spite of this challenge?
For me, especially now that I am an adult, I never felt that anyone (looking at or interacting with me) saw me as having a disability. I think that is because I do not see myself as being a person with disabilities. However, having gone through all the challenges we often hear that Persons with Disabilities face - such as being institutionalised from the age of four and fighting for basic human rights from a child onwards just to achieve what I did - it was mentally, emotionally and physically taxing. Fear has allowed me to continue to persevere in spite of my challenges, fear of one day becoming stagnant in life, fear of restriction, fear of not contributing and leaving behind, not being able to do something to help myself, my country and my world. Having said that, I can say that my mind is so independent but physically, I am restricted a little and I need to reach financial independence in order to conquer that fear and to be able to continue doing what I do. I need to empower myself in order to continue to empower and help others. Everything I am doing now and has done before is to banish that fear and keep progressing.
Tell us something about you that people may not know?
There are so many things people do not know because, believe it or not, I am a very private person. I am a very selective and peculiar person when it comes to places I go and people I keep close, what I wear, put on my skin and eat. Experiencing first-hand what alcohol does to an individual, the fight of addiction and the torturing of a family, I can outwardly say that I detest the thought of alcohol and would often speak out against it.
What are you most grateful for?
I am most grateful for my family, their support and for them expecting the same things from me, if not more, as my siblings. I am also grateful for my experiences and the people I met along the way that have allowed me the knowledge I have now.
What is something you know for sure that you wish the rest of us knew?
I know for sure that if we all do good from a genuine place, our country and our world would be an even better place than it is now…I think that is logical enough.
Give us your best advice for other women who will be reading your story.
To women who are reading this, let us combine classic class and modern-day boss lady and shine not for anyone else but for ourselves.