Catherine is a 21-year-old student studying Bachelor of Secondary Education at Eastern Visayas State University in Ormoc City, Philippines. She’s the 10th child among her 11 siblings. Her father works as caretaker in a public cemetery.
Since elementary and high school, Catherine has been an outstanding student despite her physical mobility. Catherine’s disability began when she was 3-years-old. Due to her parent’s lack of financial resources when she was a child, her swollen foot was not treated and continued to affect her mobility ever since.
Catherine was a victim of bullying and discrimination because of her physical condition. She admitted that for a time, she blamed herself for not being normal like other girls. She felt inferior and insecure. She even hated herself for being weak and having a low self-esteem. Catherine used to think that she has no future and her disability was hindering her success. She was afraid that because of her disability, it limits her capacity to improve her life. However, she did not give up, she rose above those negative thoughts. Catherine believed that she can conquer her fears and weaknesses despite her mobility by proving to herself, her friends, and family that there is something unique within her disability.
Catherine’s experiences led her to become more determined and motivated to change the perspective of those towards people with disabilities. She actively participates in her church’s youth ministry and attends various seminars and training related to children and youth. Catherine has been actively involved in different organizations and is now an active member and child rights advocate of a youth organisation affiliated with ECLIPSE, a Terre des Hommes Netherlands partner.
Catherine is a youth peer educator of Plan International and also one of the girl advocates of the Girl’s Advocacy Alliance programme. She is very passionate and committed to her advocacy to shutdown online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC). She has been raising awareness about child rights, OSEC, child labour, and other gender-based violence issues. Due to the seminars and training she attended, Catherine is now facilitating and organizing activities related to child protection issues and other advocacy awareness activities in their barangay. She was hailed and elected as the President of AKTION Club - a service club for people with disabilities, and a Girl Champion of ECLIPSE.
All throughout her journey, Catherine learned that one’s physical condition does not matter in order to do something for the community or the people. She always reminds herself to put faith first in everything she does. She is grateful for all the problems and challenges she has encountered because it is the main reason of who she is today. She said, “I may have a disability, but I can do things that regular people can do because we are all unique and special in our own way”.
She also wants to inspire everybody, especially those people like her who are struggling to accept themselves and trying to gain acceptance from others. She said, “We can find strength in our weaknesses”. Now, Catherine is happy because she is now an empowered young woman and she is forever grateful for the experiences and knowledge that she has gained. She is committed to continue her advocacy by empowering other children and girls.