China: Chunxia Li

I have to live my life to the fullest. Others respect only those who respect themselves.

— Chunxia Li

Li Chunxia is a disabled worker from Xian, Shaanxi Province of China. She has been paraplegic since childhood. With the enthusiastic help of the others and her independent character, she had managed to complete schooling and to take up different jobs. Her life is exemplary for being able to raise her daughter – now a post-graduate student – on her own with a meager living and all kinds of hardships. Her independence is a living model to her daughter and to society.

Li Chunxia suffered from paraplegia at a very young age. Refusing to be marginalized by being out of school, she wrote to the newspapers to draw public attention to her plight and managed to complete her schooling. Subsequently, she worked in a factory from where she was dismissed with a labor insurance compensation because the new manager did not like to see her wheelchair at the entrance of the sales department where she worked. When her daughter was only 18 months old, she and her blind husband divorced. A few years later, her father’s death left Li Chunxia on her own, with the responsibility of her daughter. Seeking a better education environment for her, Li Chunxia moved several times to different places, some with very poor living conditions, surviving on a meager allowance of only 164 yuan a month from the factory. In times of illness, they could not afford to see a doctor and just bought some medicines. Whenever they could not pay the tuition fee, the daughter had to study at home. Here, mother and daughter read famous works together and discussed stories, plots, characters, and themes. “I have never experienced love in my life, that’s why I want to let my child know how true love is like." Whenever the daughter encountered problems in her studies, Li Chunxia stepped in to help. “Mum and I are just like peers," she says. She had striven to work hard and performed very well in school. In 1999, she succeeded in entering the Shaanxi Normal University. Now she is a post-graduate student working for her master’s degree. Though disabled people are entitled to social support at a minimal level, Li Chunxia’s story tells us that they have to be strong-minded and active to get through studying, working and even family life. Li Chunxia's self-determination and optimism in face of adversity have inspired many.