We all face the same race in life, but with more hurdles in our lane

He is the first sit-down comedian in BiH. You’ve watched him on the small screen, where he has thrilled professionals with his quips. His name is Jasmin Džemiđić and he has laughed in the face of every challenge life has served him.

Image of Jasmin Džemiđić, story is part of the campaign PonosniNaSebe"I’ve been making people laugh for ages. I’ve always liked poking fun at myself and that’s really where the sit-down comedy started. When I first signed up for the Magacinkabareopen mic, they didn’t believe me when I said I manage the wheelchair on my own,” says Jasmin, remembering his break onto the scene.

For his first performance in front of an audience, he had to deal with a single literal step to get onto the stage. The fight against prejudice has involved more of them. He has used every experience, bad or good, to create laughter, using even the unfunny things in life to extractenough joy to fuel his struggle for laughter, his own and other people’s.

"Not every joke has to be negative – when people with disabilities make jokes against themselves it can be inspiring. Everyday occurrences can be hilariously funny, if the audience is open-minded enough to see beyond their pity”, he explains.

He went to a mainstream school and then to university and has lived an ordinary life and encountered obstacles frequently, but, he says, he’s proud of the choices he has made and the results he has achieved in everything he has really wanted.

"I am proudest of the fact that my hard work and determination have helped me fulfilmy childhood dream, which was to be on stage on equal terms with everyone else. And I am proud of all my friends who have succeeded in life despite their disabilities,” Jasmin continues.

There is a lot of prejudice to overcome on the way to success, both inside you and around you. Even when things looked bleakest and he thought he would never overcome those prejudices, today, looking back on it, he sees things in a completely different way:

"There wasn’t much ridicule from other children. There was no place for that. When we were mitching off from school, which I do not recommend, my friends would carry me and that would make things easier. I grew up in a better time, when disabilities were not talked about so much and things were different. I experience more mockery, more condescension, and more pity from older people than from the younger ones,” he explains.

Maybe it’s his directness and openness about disability or his courage to call things as they are that has gained him the respect of his peers. He says that the people without disabilities have a lot to learn about people with disabilities.

"Honestly, there are many things I, as a person with disabilities, would like people without them to know. Starting with that you can be totally relaxed around us. There is a general idea that we can’t do things for ourselves and are completely dependent on others. Just make a bit of an effort and look at the average day of a disabled person and you’ll see that we are all running the same race in life and the only difference is that our track has more hurdles,” our interlocutor says.

He believes that the biggest problem is that society thinks people with disabilities do nothing on a day to day basis and so accomplish nothing– from simple things that just make life easier to longer-term decisions that dictate their lives. That is what made him become active in organizations for persons with disabilities and he recommends everyone else with a disability in BiH to do the same:

"There is only one way for a disabled person to be happy and that is for them to make peace with their disability and themselves and try to get the best from everything. Contrary to popular belief, people with disabilities are not "God-given”. They have to get active and work for their own future. If we want equality, we have to put in the effort, just like everyone else,” he says.

His work and advocacy to date, his public profile and his activities to promote the rights and potential of persons with disabilities have, he says, brought him a great deal of satisfaction, regardless of the general situation in society.

"I have been cooperating with MyRight for many years through projects, seminars, and particularly by getting to know each other. My dear friends who work at MyRight are one of the most professional teams I have had the pleasure of working with, a rare example of a small team with a crazy work ethic, which I greatly appreciate”, Jasmin says with pride.

He is the first of our storytellers to talk about the negative side of things too, which most people prefer to avoid.

"People with disabilities in BiH can and should be proud of themselves and proud of each other, we should be thrilled at each-others’ success, which is in the end another success for our community in a society in which we are not always properly accepted. I also think that we don’t give enough time to family and friends, who are worthy of our pride too for so many reasons. Is it so hard to make at least one person laugh every day?”, Jasmin asks.

Jasmin''''s story was told as part of the #PonosniNaSebe campaign, conducted between April and December 2016 by MyRight in cooperation with five coalitions of organisations of persons with disabilities in BiH.

Ana Kotur for MyRight

Austrian Development Co-operation and Light for the World have funded creation of this web site With funding from Austrian Development Cooperation Light for the World