Guro Fjellanger, Norway

02_08_spina_bifida-guro.jpg My name is Guro Fjellanger and I am 38 years of age. I was born on the west coast of Norway in the city of Bergen, but was brought up in Stokmarknes in the nothern part of the country. I am the oldest of three sisters, and the only one afflicted by spina bifida. I went to an ordinary kindergarten and school and recieved no special teaching, although I spent at least one moth in Oslo every year through primary school in order to undergo various forms of surgery. My medical journal from this time says ; "Guro is an intelligent child with a great imagination and an ugly walk..!".

During my childhood I participated in different forms of activities such as gymnastics and playing the clarinet in the schools orchestra. Of course I was not able to do all the same jumping and running as other children. But I was among the best at throwing two or three balls against a wall for a very long time... My parents chose not to have a car, which was possible because I grew up in what was then a village . This forced me to walk, use my tri-cycle during summer or chair sledge during winter.

My parents raised me as similarly as possible to "a normal" child together with my two sisters. This gave me a strong belief in being just as valuable as any other human despite my disability. I have always been interested in politics, epsecially issues related to the environment, racial equality, gender and questions of disability. I moved to the southern part of Norway, to the capital Oslo, when I was 19 to become a silversmith. At the same time I started my engagement in politics by joining the board of the youth party of Venstre (The Social Liberal Party of Norway). Since then I have been into politics on different levels, and became Norway's Minister of Environmetal Protection in 1997, a post I held until March 2000.

Travellling to different conferences and negotiations as a Norwegian minister on cruches, I was very often met with the question: " Did you have a ski-accident?". They were always smiling, but when I replied "No, I was born like this" the smile usually would disappear and they would say: " I´m sorry". I think this story underlines the bigges challenge we as people afflicted with disabilities face today. Even though I was the same person, and the chruches were the same, their wiew of me would suddenly change, when they got to know that I was born with SB and had not just broken my foot.

Today I run my own company giving lectures on environmental issues, and I also run courses teaching people from organisations and interest groups how to get through to decisionmakers. Not least, however; I give lectures on how the care system and society around us should be more adapted to our individual needs and made more accessible for us. I live with my spouse and my cat in my own flat in Oslo. I spend my spare time to see friends, read, listen to music, go to movies, theater and concerts. Also I have traveled a lot, not least in south eastern parts of Africa. Today I have learned to ask for help, and I have even got my own wheel chair to cover distances longer than I am able to walk. I live a good life, with its ups and downs as other people.
 

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