Through social media we learned that Jeanette Chedda is running for Parliament in the Netherlands. Her main cause is disability politics and fighting for diversity. The elections are coming up in just a few days. 

Photo credits: Betephotograpy

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I am Jeanette Chedda (37), I have OI type three. I am the daughter of two amazing Surinamese parents. My father died in 2017 but I still have my mother. I am the oldest with three siblings (34, 22 and 17 years old). I am the only one with OI. I am a web editor since 2010, a disability rights activist (anti-ableism), ambassador for the Care4BrittleBones Foundation lead by Dagmar Mekking and a lot of amazing ambassadors and volunteers.

How did you end up running for Parliament?

I ended up running for Parliament because I was asked. So I applied for a spot on the list and became the number four of eighteen candidates. On March 15,16 and 17, The Netherlands is going to vote for their preferred party. So in the days after we will know if we got enough votes to enter Parliament. It is very exciting and I am optimistic. You should check out our party: bij1.org.

Why should people vote for you?

The main cause I fight for are disability rights. The biggest misconception about The Netherlands is that we take good care of our disabled community. In 2016 The Netherlands ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, CRPD. Since then, our position in society worsened on different aspects of life (education, financially, living, care etc). Different research proves this, even the Institute for Human Rights and other disability organizations agree.

I believe that representation matters. Our community has a 0,3% representation in Dutch politics. That is one of the reasons people should vote for me. Disabled voices need to be heard more. Nothing about us, without us.

Why are role models important?

I grew up with no role models. In 2019 I saw someone that looked like me (a woman with South Asian roots) for the first time in the media. It was Shani Dhanda from the UK. I cried. It is important to see people who look like you in certain positions. People who you can relate to and identify with. You can’t be what you can’t see. We need to have more diversity in our parliament. And more disabled people in decision making. Because these policies affects our lives. Our current Parliament doesn’t reflect the richness of our country. The parliament right now consists of mainly white people (men mostly).

Jeanette at OIFE Youth Meeting

In what ways have OI affected your political career?

What has been most negative is the harmful prejudices people have of disabled women of color. I have to deal with sexism, racism and ableism. That’s a heavy burden to carry. Also managing my lack of energy in combination with the harmful urge to prove myself. I try to temper it. But that’s not always possible. It has been a life long struggle.

My positive outlook on live has been an asset though. That’s a OI-thing right? A hope for a better world drives me. And the amazing people I know with OI that support me, lift me up and wish me well.

Why do you do what you do?

To be honest I don’t think I have a choice in this. The alternative for me is doing nothing. And doing nothing is to comply with the situation. I will not comply. I will not shut up. I will not submit. We as (disabled) people deserve more than what we are given in this world.

I grew up thinking there was something wrong with me because I have OI being a short person and using a wheelchair. I was lonely and sad and depressed a lot of my life because of this. I don’t want disabled kids to go through the same. I want them to know: you are strong, you are smart, you are worthy, you are kind, you are here and you will not disappear. You deserve a spot in this society as much as a non disabled person does. You’re worth is not defined by your ‘productivity’. You belong in this world and I see you.

Hope and the motivation to make a better world for ALL of us drives me. I have seen the beauty of good allies in this world. That is also a driver for me. Because we can’t do this alone. Allies pull up!

What’s your most challenging experience related to politics?

The racist, ableist, sexist right extremist trolls online that are ready to attack to silence me and us. They tried and will keep trying. It is hard, scary and disgusting.

And what is most motivating?

The people who reach out to me and tell me I gave them a voice and their hope back. It reminds me why I do this. Because maybe I make it look easy what I do. But I can assure you it is not. My community who I deeply appreciate and love, who stand behind me, next to me and in front of me when they need to are worth more than I can express. I thrive because they are there. You know who you are.

In which ways do you think the OI-organizations can be better at diversity and inclusion?

Interesting question. First of all. Do you homework! And I would like OI-organizations to make more room for Black OI-people and people of color and immigrant background. Explicitly. Actively. You need to be actively anti-racist.

How can the OIFE contribute?

You can facilitate the conversation, make room for this conversation, be more intersectional. Make room for more black people and OI-people of color.

The lack of black and brown representation really hurts me. Because I feel I am part of the OI-community but at the same time I really miss the acknowledgement and conversation about of racism and unconscious bias around race within our own community.

Do you have time to do something outside politics?

Haha, yes. I love being active physically. I have been swimming my whole childhood. Since 2012 I have been playing wheelchair hockey (floorball) which I love. And indeed boxing. Only with a punching bag. I don’t box people. Because I still have OI.

Do you have any other messages to the readers of OIFE Magazine?

Let’s support each other more, lift each other up, share our platforms to let our important voices to be heard more, especially the Black and Brown disabled voices. Let’s be good allies and acknowledge white privilege. Not sure what that means? Please do your homework!

You can contact Jeanette on Facebook on Instagram or Twitter.