Shamla Maharaj, the physically challenged young woman whose academic success has been a source of inspiration to many, has earned the Award of Merit for Youth Contribution in the Express Individual of the Year Awards, 2010.
Maharaj, who is afflicted with cerebral palsy, graduated from the University of the West Indies with a Bachelor of Science degree in October and is pursuing her Master’s in Agribusiness Marketing.
Maharaj, who turned 25 on November 11, said she was elated to have won the award. And her resolution this year is simple.
“To be better than how I was in the previous year.”
She added, “I am very happy. I did not expect to receive such an award but I am very happy for it. I am very excited to win something like that and now I have to live up to its expectations.”
She said the past year has been one of her best.
Next year, she intends to assist physically and socially challenged young people.
“Now that I am in the spotlight, I want to help persons who have social challenges, to talk to them and motivate them and to tell them that no matter what they can move on and out of that negative area of their life that they are in right now.”
She said “No matter what keep trying. God will see you trying and he will help you somehow.”
At seven months old, Maharaj was diagnosed with a brain disorder that left her unable to walk. At age four, she enrolled at the Princess Elizabeth Special School and was among the last to write the Common Entrance examination before it was replaced by the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exams.
She attended the Barrackpore Secondary Comprehensive School and passed all her CXC and A-Level examinations.
Her mother, Chandra Maharaj, who was her constant companion for the three years spent at UWI on Milner Hall, said ” As long as she (Shamla) eats properly and takes care of herself, she will be able to live a normal, long and fruitful life.”
The Maharajs live at Rochard Douglas Road in Barrackpore.
Maharaj boasts of having her own “vehicle”—a motorised wheelchair which she calls “my baby.” She said the wheelchair costs $14,500 and she hoped to buy a smaller one ” as soon as I can save up some money.”
Maharaj said she was still getting adjusted to the Master’s programme which she described as a challenge. For this semester, her mother had to drive her to UWI everyday because her classes were in the evening. But she said she hoped to stay on campus for the remaining semesters.
She thanked all the members of her faculty who assisted her including three of her friends—Ishmael Drayton, Cindy Eugene and Danelle McClean.
Minister of the People and Social Development Glenn Ramadharsingh has promised to assist Maharaj in obtaining an academic scholarship.
Shamla Maharaj’s statement on behalf of the Disability Youth Ambassador and by
extension Social Ambassador of Trinidad and Tobago.
The Policies made for the vulnerable and marginalized groups in Trinidad and Tobago
and by extension CARICOM is the stepping stone for these groups in society to be treated with
equity. The technique that UNESCO uses to accomplish its aim is through research methodology
done scientifically through quantitative research. Policy making starts with these basic researches
and finding the causes of the variable social effects in society. What can be done to determine the
cause? Although the effects may seem endless finding the is the cause in order to obtain a
solution is tedious, inevitable and fragile task.
Policy making in Trinidad and Tobago is a transparent and ongoing process. Dealing with
Social issues is one thing, but how it is dealt with will determine the outcome. The way in which
the socially disadvantaged in society is dealt with will affect the other groups, sectors and overall
status of the country.
As a Social ambassador of Trinidad and Tobago it is believed that policies will provide
solid base in determining the causes of the social issues affecting our country and by extension
the CARICOM. The current policies in Trinidad and Tobago and the CARICOM countries take
into account every aspect that can be thought of that affects the vulnerable, marginal and socially
displaced groups in society.
One would aspire inclusion not only as being the end result of including and making
society a place of equity, but inclusion from the community level of the policy making process.
Policy making is a process that requires the involvement of main features or groups that would