Zainab Al-Eqabi Iraqi disabled war 1991

Founder of Disabled and Proud

“In December 2013 and after 17 years of wearing it, I decided to take off the cosmetic part of my artificial leg. It wasn’t easy in a conservative society that finds it hard to accept that a veiled Arab woman is exposing herself and inviting everyone to look at her disability. But I felt this was an important step I had to make to show people that those with disabilities are a part and parcel of society and that we have the right to contribute to society just like anyone else without fear of people’s glances and whispers.” Zainab

Zainab is a remarkable young Iraqi woman who has spent the last few years campaigning to overturn stereotypes of disability in Arab societies where disabled people are often hidden away from a mix of shame and pity.

Zainab is working to promote the concept of Disabled and Proud in these conservative societies by showing her disability as a God-given blessing that has given her the motivation and ability to help make change, giving those who are disabled in the Middle East pride in themselves and helping them lead fuller and more public lives.

Zainab has done many talks including two TEDx talks about the concept of Disabled and Proud. She runs a Facebook page that has attracted nearly 40 000 likes and has appeared on a number of TV programmes broadcast all around the Middle East.

Born in August 1990 in Baghdad, Zainab grew up in a country whose landscape, after the first Gulf war, was littered with many unexploded bombs. One of those was in the garden of her family home. No one knew it was an unexploded bomb until it exploded in 1997, hurting Zainab, her younger sister and her father. Following a medical mistake, gangrene took hold in Zainab’s leg which eventually led to its amputation.

Zainab’s father lost his left hand and her younger sister lost part of one of her fingers and part of her thigh.

Losing her leg at the age of seven and growing up in a society that looked down on her because of her disability made Zainab determined to show the world that disability can be a great thing; that in her case it was the best thing that had happened to her because it became such a powerful source of faith, strength and desire to achieve in her life.

“Life is a Journey. We need to accept and love ourselves the way we are, live it to the fullest and always challenge ourselves in every way possible. We have been born for a reason and I believe in destiny where things happen for a much bigger reason. Either we make our lives worthwhile or we simply waste them.”

Over the years Zainab constantly pushed herself to participate in all sorts of sporting activities including swimming, parasailing, paralympic shooting, and five walkathons (in aid of Diabetes).

In 2013 Zainab graduated from pharmacy college at Sharjah University in Sharjah, UAE, and today she lives in the UAE and works as a medical representative for a global pharmaceutical company.

BASED IN: Sharjah, UAE
LANGUAGES: Arabic and English.

ZAINAB ON SCREEN

Short documentary in Arabic made about Zainab’s story