Farida Bedwei's is the author of Definition of a Miracle, her debut novel, which has been published to much acclaim. Farida is one individual whose life could fill numerous books after having overcome all odds, odds are took on infinite proportions when one factors in the environment within which she grew and the people within this environment whom she must compete with on different grounds and fronts even when the playing field is not level. Plagued with cerebral palsy, which affected coordination and speech, Farida has moved through life to become a software engineer, a motivational speaker, and advocate for people with neurological diseases, and a novelist. ImageNations speaks to Farida on wide-ranging issues ranging from her life to the book she has written.
Could you tell us who Farida Bedwei is, her life, education and all we need to know?
I was born in Lagos, Nigeria on 6th April,1979. I spent most of my childhood in the Caribbean islands of Dominica and Grenada, amongst other places. I landed on the shores of Accra in June 1988. Since I ended up spending most of my school-going years in developing countries, without special schools for children with disabilities, I was home schooled by my mom till I was 12 when I entered mainstream school for the first time. I started out from (Junior Secondary School) JSS 1 at Cambridge JSS (Korle-Gonno) but went to JSS 2 and 3 and wrote the (Basic Education Certificate Examination) BECE in Kaneshie Awudome 1 JSS. After which I went to a Diploma in the Management of Information Systems then I started working... In 2004, I got admission into the University of Hertfordshire (UK) to read a BSc in Computer Science and I was exempted from the first two years of the course.
With regards to my professional life, I started out as an administrative assistant at Omari Computek Systems when I was 17 years old. After a year there, I moved to SOFT where I started my career as a programmer. After three years I moved to Rancard Solutions Ltd, where I started out as a solutions analyst and rose through the ranks to the Senior Software Architect role, a position I occupied when I left the company 9 yrs later... I am currently the Head of IT for G-Life Financial Services, a microfinance company.
Which books did you find yourself reading when you were growing up?
My childhood literary journey was rich and diverse. I read Noddy, Amelia Jane and other Enid Blyton books, Secret 7, Famous 5, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, African Writers series.
Have you always wanted to write a book and what made you say ‘yes I would write this book’?
Not really, it really wasn't a burning passion for me to write when I was growing up; I was content to read what others had written. This book was written because I was frustrated; frustrated with societal perception of people with disabilities and frustrated with reading about a foreigner's perspective of the "African Story", which usually involves wars, famines, AIDS and child soldiers. I think it is time for us to tell our own stories.
I have heard that the book is non-autobiographical but seeing that it somehow, at least the theme, runs parallel with your life can you tell us how much of you is in this novel?
Well, I fictionalised a few of the numerous experiences I had growing up. Most of it is fiction but those who know will be able to draw the parallels where they are.
What is the story about?
A family with a physically-challenged child move back to Ghana after years in the UK. The story revolves around the experiences of this child, told from her perspective.
What do you intend to achieve with this story?
Change perceptions (if I am lucky).
What was the greatest challenge in putting this book together?
Getting the time to write it. I had a demanding job at the time I was writing the book and was often interrupted by work during my non-working hours.
What is your view on the literary scene in Ghana?
It is picking up but we still have a long way to go. We first of all have to cultivate the habit of reading, before more people would be motivated to write.
How do you juggle between writing and your professional career?
They are both very demanding 'husbands' and one usually suffers slightly when the other is being attended to - which is why it has taken me this long to answer your questions :-)
Has the publication of this book changed your life in any way?
Before releasing the book into the Ghanaian market, I did a series of interviews and talked about what it is like to be a disabled person in Ghana - the publicity generated from those interviews had a greater impact than the book itself at this point in time.
How did you feel the first day you held a copy of your book in your hands?
ImageNations is yet to read and review your work but how has general reviews (including word of mouth) been like?
I've had some very positive reviews both on amazon as well as back here in Ghana. Most find it funny, which is exactly what I want.
Are you involved in any advocacy? Could you tell us?
Not really, although I am a member of Sharecare, a local NGO for people with autoimmune and neurological diseases.
The very day I posted a profile of and an excerpt from the book on my blog I received tweets asking of sales point. Where should readers, Ghana and elsewhere, go to for copies of this book?
It is available in Silverbird Lifestyle Shop, Accra Mall, Julikart Cosmetics, Osu near MTN and INKA Accessories, opposite El Gringo, Nyaniba. After the launch, I hope to distribute it to the other regions as well as the English speaking countries in West Africa.
Thank you Farida for taking time in responding to these questions and I hope you add on to this.