In July 2019, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) held the A-Spire lecture series, highlighting the impact of women with disabilities in Georgia. Stella Andriuk shared her goals to achieve her childhood dream of becoming a professional archer. Andriuk, who uses a wheelchair, continues to pursue her dream despite encountering attitudinal and physical barriers. Mariam Mikiashvili is deputy director of the only Public School for Blind Children in Georgia, the Future Leaders Program (FLEX) alumni, said Mariam, implementing educational methods for persons with visual disabilities that she encountered while studying in the United States.
Video excerpts from the series are available below with transcripts in English. The transcript has been edited for clarity.
I have challenged myself to discover new things within myself - what I can do and what I cannot do. I have realized that what was impossible for me is the secret of my strength and development, such as understanding and realizing that I cannot ignore the obstacles I encounter, and these led me to think and focus on my abilities. These were the initial steps to building my courage and bright future. I have started to discover new things...I have started paining and set a goal to try extreme sports. I have managed to make my disability the source of my freedom.
Everybody said that only a miracle could help me to become a student. I challenged those words by creating future goals. Each negative word and approach became my motivator. It only took me two months to prepare, to take the exam and to pass the exam, and I became a student. [applause] Today I stand in a place full of new opportunities for happiness; I know and realize that I am happy. I am where I am supposed to and could imagine myself to be. I don't think and focus on what I don't have and can't do. I focus on the things that I can do and that I am happy. I wish you to find in yourself harmony that will bring you happiness, but you need to listen to your body and speak out that you are the happiest you can be. And trust me, it will work, you will be because you really are [the happiest version of yourself]. You just need to learn and understand yourself.
It is critcally important to understand and realize what we mean by goals, what we want exactly and what our expectications are. One must always strive to move forward to achieve a goal. Nevertheless, there could be many efforts that provide minimum results and some frustration, but I always believe that every single thing that happens in my life is for a better future. Obviously, we face challenges during our life journeys, We always think critically and analyze why things are happening the way they do. We have so many "what if" questions to ask ourselves: what if I was late? What if things were simpler than they are? and so on. We, humans, have a natural ability to understand and realize that things of this kind are happening for a reason in our lives. This is a way life teaches us new things, leads us to better understanding or opens doors full of new opportunities.