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A review of the incredible life of Fatima-al-Aqel

accessibility pioneers

Fatima Al-Aqel is a historical activist for people with disabilities. She was one of the bravest Yemen women in history who managed to break all barriers and challenge their disability. Throughout her life, Fatima directed most of her efforts toward advocating for women with sight disabilities in Yemen. In fact, Raja Al-Masabi, the President of the Arab Association for Human Rights, noted that Fatima's work had been educating many women with visual impairment in Yemen.

Regardless of her challenges, Fatima remained determined to shape her destiny. This is one of her most admirable traits. She strived to bring change and make a difference in society, especially for other women who had a similar disability as her. And while working as the chairperson of the Amaan Foundation of the blind female's care, she diligently worked for over a decade promoting the rights of girls with sight disabilities. Fatima saw to it that these girls were given equal chances in all aspects of life.

Fatima Al-Aqel was born in 1957 in Yemen and passed on January 12, 2012, at 55. She lost her sight back when she was studying at Cairo University. Life changed a lot after her new disability, but that didn't stand in the way of finishing her degree. Fatima is a well-educated woman who graduated with a bachelor's degree in arts and a diploma in Islamic studies. Later in 1995, Fatima opened the first school for the blind in Yemen. This was one of her first foundations in Yemen- Amaan Foundation for blind female's care which focused on fostering girls with sight disabilities.

Yemen has always been known to have a high rate of eye diseases and blindness. Many of these diseases are curable, but the unfortunate part is that most Yemenis are not able to afford the treatment. In some cases, Yemenis receive poor medical advice, often leading to blindness. By 2012, it was approximated that there were 76,000 blind Yemenis on average. On top of that, people with disabilities in Yemen face a significant barrier to education and access to public services. Al-Aqel's wish was to make way for women with disabilities to become active members of society, find work and pursue their education further.

The foundation had such a humble beginning and started by fostering five girls. But as time passed, Amaan Foundation could foster up to 800 girls across Yemen. The foundation focused its efforts on ensuring blind girls are integrated into all levels of life, workplaces, schools and universities. Amaan worked tirelessly to ensure that every blind girl in the foundation received complete and comprehensive care. It made an ongoing effort to provide the best care and tender attention to all of the girls.

The main theme of the Amaan Foundation was that a girl didn't lose all her senses simply because she lost her eyesight. For that reason, she must not be denied her fundamental rights, such as the right to a decent education. That's why Amaan Foundation collaborated with other foundations that support young women with visual disabilities. Amaan collaborated closely with the Education Ministry and other foundations for blind girls to ensure that every blind girl had access to educational resources and services regardless of her circumstances.

While the foundation's objective seemed pretty straightforward, it came with many challenges. The foundation's primary goals included protecting girls with sight disabilities from all forms of exploitation and advocating for the rights of blind girls. Therefore, the foundation carried out projects and programs to help girls with sight impairments integrate into society. Amaan's additional goals included stepping up efforts to support more services for girls with sight impairments and increasing societal awareness of the rights of blind women.

Al-Aqel began a mutual cooperation agreement between AOBWC and the British Cultural Council in 2001. In 2012, Al-Aqel received the Balqis Award, a $20,000 prize given annually to recognize the contributions of Yemeni women's groups. Al-Aqel was also honored in 2013 at the third annual "Festival of the Blind" in Sana'a for her work with AOBWC in creating a "more compassionate and considerate world for the blind." Al-Aqel and her accomplishments truly exemplified how nothing was impossible. Compared to their humble beginnings, the foundation's current status is a shining example of how determination can lead to success.

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