The journey of Amida Iddrisu – From disability to job creation

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By Samuel SAM

“Being born with a disability does not make you less useful in society or deter you from achieving your goals. With encouragement and support from your family and community, you can achieve great things. Although culture is dynamic, focus, perseverance and determination, combined with the right skills, knowledge and passion can make you a unique and influential person in society.”

This is the story of Amida Iddrisu, a person with a disability (PWD) who has overcome numerous challenges to become a beacon of hope and transformation. She attributes her resilience to her upbringing by her grandmother, who instilled in her strong work ethics and the belief that she was no different from anyone else. “I faced many challenges, but I always focused on building a positive life rather than seeing my disability as a problem,” she says. This mindset motivated her to become a prominent figure in her community.

Overcoming challenges

Ms. Idrissu’s journey has been marked by significant obstacles. Growing up with a disability in a society that often stigmatises and marginalises people with disabilities, she had to develop a strong sense of self-worth and determination. “When I was growing up, my motivation came from within and how I was raised by my grandmother. She taught me that I am not different from any other person as long as I am in my right mind,” she recalls.

Her grandmother’s lessons were crucial in shaping her outlook on life. “I have been through challenges; but everything in life has a positive and negative side, even the water we drink. I chose to focus on the positive aspects and build my life around them,” she adds. This positive attitude helped her navigate the complexities of her disability and society’s often unkind perceptions.

Motivated to make a difference

After graduating from the university, Ms. Idrissu applied for several jobs but faced repeated rejections due to her disabilities. This experience was disheartening, but it also fuelled her determination to create opportunities for herself and others in similar situations. “Despite being called for interviews, I was always turned down because of my disabilities. I could not see myself doing nothing while knowing that other people were in the same situation,” she explains.

Driven by this motivation, Amida established a waste recycling empowerment training programme. She trained nine rural women and five PWDs to recycle waste plastic into home decor products. “We bought waste plastics from the community and sold segmented waste. The products made by trainees were sold both online and onsite, providing livelihoods for many,” Amida says.

The business thrived, encouraging more PWDs to join in collecting plastic waste from homes and communities. However, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the training and business operations, leading Amida to pivot. “This taught me resilience. I remembered that most women were the breadwinners for their families, and I needed to think about my trainees’ well-being,” she says.

Expanding horizons

Amida then inherited her grandmother’s business, focusing on shea butter, natural oils and organic food products. She involved rural women and PWDs in processing these products, training them to create items like organic soaps, hair products, creams, ointments and lip balm. “My trainees were paid after every production, fulfilling my mission of providing financial inclusion to the less-privileged in my community,” Amida states.

Her vision is to provide free skills training to 500 less-privileged people in the next five years, equipping them with the necessary tools and machines to work independently and spread their knowledge to others.

Major achievements

Ms. Idrissu’s hard work and dedication have earned her recognition from various organisations. She has received numerous awards and certificates, including:

  • September 16, 2023: Award from Dinbian Media Consult as one of the Northern Women Change-
  • April 16, 2023: Awarded by Access Bank’s Womenpreneur Pitch-A-Ton programme.
  • February 16, 2023: Completed the US Africa Green Leaders Academy and Fellowship.
  • November 5, 2022: Selected for the Youth African Leadership Initiative (YALI) fellowship programme organised by USAID, MasterCard Foundation and GIMPA, receiving a certificate in leadership and entrepreneurship.
  • November 10, 2017: Foundational training in business certificate.
  • March 8, 2018: Certificate for completing entrepreneurship training and a prize for second place in a business pitch competition.
  • January 5, 2018: Employability training certificate.

Each award and recognition is evidence of Amida’s impact and the sustainability of her work. Her story has inspired many in her community and beyond, demonstrating that disabilities do not define a person’s potential.

Building a community of empowerment

Ms. Idrissu’s efforts have extended beyond mere business success. She has built a supportive community where people with disabilities and rural women can find a sense of purpose and economic independence. “Involving the rural women and PWDs in processing shea butter and natural oils became an opportunity to innovate and train them on how to use these resources to create useful products,” she says.

This approach not only provides income but also builds skills that are transferable and sustainable. Her business model is inclusive, ensuring that everyone involved benefits. “My trainees were paid after every production, and this completed my mission of providing financial inclusion to the less-privileged in my community,” Amida explains. This model has created a ripple-effect, encouraging more people to join her cause and learn new skills.

Vision

Her vision for the future is ambitious. She aims to provide free skills training to 500 less-privileged people over the next five years. “I want to establish them with the necessary tools and machines to work and make money on their own. This will enable them to spread the knowledge by training other people,” she says. This vision is not just about business; it’s about creating a legacy of empowerment and self-sufficiency.

Advice for others with disabilities

Ms. Idrissu understands the difficulties that come with being a person with a disability. “It is not easy to become a PWD either from birth or via unforeseen accident. The stigmatisation can make one commit suicide, especially where one does not have any livelihood empowerment programme to make a living,” she acknowledges.

However, she believes that with inspiration and support from loved ones, anyone can achieve their goals. “Every disabled person should concentrate on the positive side of their disabilities by focusing and showcasing their specific talents to the world,” she advises.

 

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