Fathima Zohra (Zoe Zora)

A spinal cord injury from a car accident four years ago left Zora with a physical disability that requires the use of a wheelchair. But Zora is by no means limited by her use of a wheelchair or her quadriplegia. She continues to model, goes on nurturing her love of fashion and of dressing up, and exercises regularly. She is even an advocate for disabilities and mental health, using her voice and her story. In fact, Zora recently won the Goh Chok Tong Enable Awards, which recognises the achievements of persons with disabilities.

Her message to the wider community is this: "Don’t just pity people with disabilities, because when you just pity us, you disempower us, you take away our power. Instead, include us, motivate us, encourage us. That would make a very big difference because we really don’t want anyone’s pity. We just want to be heard.”

Zora credits her family, friends and social worker for supporting her, even when it wasn’t always easy. It was a month after the accident, when she slowly regained consciousness, that Zora found out she was disabled. It then took “a long time” for her to accept what happened. She said it got easier as she met people who lived with a disability their whole lives as they inspired her to keep going. Zora said she had the privilege of living in an able body for 20 years, "so becoming disabled really changed me and opened up my eyes to a whole community I was ignorant about”. That realisation of the difficulties and challenges faced by the community gave her a new purpose.

Still, there are days when she’s tired and doesn’t want to advocate. Like she said, “we’re normal people too who need time off to do regular things in peace”. So if you run into her outside, say hi but do not pepper her with questions about her injuries. “It instantly reminds me of all the trauma I had to go through when I was injured and became disabled. I am very happy and proud to be disabled now but when strangers question you every single day and remind you of your trauma, it can be very exhausting mentally,” she said.

What keeps Zora going is her mission to make a difference in the lives of her community. She said when other people with disabilities and mental health conditions message her to say her sharing inspired them, “it is these people that keep me going and motivate me to continue doing what I do”.

SPEAK TO US!

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