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A 36-year-old woman, born on Suriname’s Independence Day on November 25th, Esten Cohen has a physical disability, but, as she says, chooses “not to place ‘dis’ in my ability because I am This Able!” 

Esten identifies as a very creative person and a kind human being who loves learning new things. She is passionate about writing, music, and nature. She enjoys inspiring others and recently joined the leadership organization Junior Chamber International (JCI) Unify. She works as a freelancer, transcribing, writing resumes, letters, poems, and creating designs. Most of all, her passion is to bring change to people with disabilities.

Despite her disability, Esten succeeded as a student and was rewarded for her efforts with a decoration in the Order of Palm in 2007 by the President of Suriname. Living with a disability hasn’t been easy. But her focus remains on the bigger picture: to be an example for other young people. 

To Esten, the Sustainable Development Goals are a powerful tool to encourage change in the community. A great example is the availability of more access to education for people with a disability. SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) is also of great importance to her because she believes that everybody has the right to live in a safe environment and all public spaces must be accessible to everyone. For example, school buildings have to be accessible for all types of kids. 

Esten thinks that Leaving No One Behind is a very good mindset to bring all kinds of people together. Inclusion always starts in the mind. When everybody is aware that we are equal and that we all have talents, when we realize that everyone can contribute to our country, then we will be able to leave no one behind.

Esten will be happy when there is adapted 24/7 transport available at all times and when all places will be wheelchair friendly. “When people will accept me for who I am and include me in everything, it will give me more freedom as a person with a disability” Ester says.

Policymakers are being urged to create opportunities for people with disabilities.