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FOCUS March 2024 Volume Volume 115

Soulful Resistance: A Poetic Journey of a Disabled Female Activist

Ishak Salim and Zakia


Aku terlahir tanpa pelukan

Rimbun sampah pinggir jalan

Tangis membabi buta

Mencari peraduan

Terbujur kaku

Tubuhmu tak ada di sampingku

Meleleh mata membasahi jiwa

Sisa luka untuk anakmu

Aku bermunajat di siang malam

Agar kau pulang

Ketuk denyut jantungnya

Gerak langkah kakinya

Tuk surga yang kurindu


Cast Away

I was born without embrace

Amidst the roadside trash

Blind tears

Seeking solace

Lying stiff

Your body not by my side

Tears melting the soul

Remnants of pain for your child

I pray day and night

For your return

The beat of your heart

The steps of your journey

For the heaven I long for


Stella's poem, "Terbuang," was published in 2019. It describes a daughter's longing for her mother. Along with other poems in the book Terbuang Tetap Sayang (Wasted But Still Loved), she expresses her life experiences. Readers of her poems can gain insight into Stella's life. Three years later, she published her second book, Sajak Sehat (Healthy Poems).

Birth and Growing Up

Stella Rosita Anggraini was born in Jombang, East Java, Indonesia, twenty-nine years ago, as the only child of Mustianah and Sugiono. She was diagnosed with Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI), a well-known congenital condition also referred to as Brittle Bone Disorder that causes bones to become soft, fragile and fracture easily.

Stella.jpgStella's parents divorced after she was born. Her mother had difficulty accepting her daughter's medical condition. Since then, Stella lived with her grandparents and father. Though physically disabled, her father worked as a parking attendant at a clothing store in Jombang.

Although she did not grow up with a mother's love, Stella received a lot of love and support from her grandparents. Their experience in raising her physically disabled father made them adept at caring for Stella with utmost attention. Under their protection, Stella blossomed into a cheerful girl. In her early years, before having a wheelchair, Stella was often carried by her uncle or father. Even when she entered primary school, Stella would be brought to school by her uncle on a bicycle or her father in his wheelchair.

The love she received from her grandparents taught her not to harbor hatred towards her mother as shown in her heartfelt book Terbuang Tetap Sayang.

Like many disabled children, Stella faced pressure and intimidation from her classmates. However, she handled the situation patiently. Her patience not only influenced her friends' behavior, but also garnered support for her at school. Not having a wheelchair, the teacher would call her grandfather to come and assist her in using the toilet.

Though facing various obstacles, Stella also received a lot of support that helped her to persevere and navigate her school days. Stella showed strength and determination.

Stella's love for books and reading, especially about fairytales, started to grow from childhood. After her grandparents passed away, Stella lived with Uncle Sugianto, Aunt Suliyati and their children. Her cousins introduced her to the culture of reading. She received books for her birthdays and each time she entered a higher year in school, which made her happy. The stories of Malin Kundang, Cinderella, and poems by Chairil Anwar were her favorites.

Reading helped Stella overcome many obstacles and strengthened her in pursuing her dream of becoming an author.

After finishing primary school in 2006, Stella continued her studies at the Public Middle School 3 Jombang. Although initially rejected by the teachers, a disability activist named Bahrul Fuad or Cak Fu helped Stella get accepted in the school and continued her studies there. Additionally, the President of the Republic of Indonesia, K.H. Abdurrahman Wahid, gave her a wheelchair. At school, Stella faced different reactions from her teachers and classmates. But the solidarity and support from her friends strengthened her in facing obstacles in school.

In the second grade of middle school, the teacher organized a system in class that enabled the students to support Stella. This demonstrated the school's commitment to creating an inclusive environment for students with disabilities, like Stella. As a teenager, Stella's love for books, including short stories, poems, and school books continued to grow. Unfortunately, she was unable to continue her studies in senior secondary school due to distance and tuition fees. In 2016, Stella received training from the Bina Daksa Rehabilitation Center in Pasuruan, East Java, where she learned various skills over the course of two years. Despite not attending senior secondary school, her interest in reading remained strong. She enjoyed reading books borrowed from her friend at the Rehabilitation Center, Uswa.

Poetry Reading and Writing

In a competition among rehabilitation centers held in August 2016, Stella participated in the poetry reading category as a representative of her center. After that, she frequently read poetry at various events, including the 2016 Governor's event in Jombang. It was a playful experience for her. She never forgot to practice and prepare well before her performances. As a result, she was able to showcase her best during the poetry readings.

Two years later, she had the opportunity to enhance her poetry writing skills through "Ayo Inklusif," a training program for youth with disabilities to help improve their employment opportunities. Stella started writing her own poems under the guidance of her mentor. Terbuang Tetap Sayang was the result of her one-month writing training in "Ayo Inklusif."

"Writing poetry is the simplest thing I can do in a month-long training" Stella said.

"Writing is healing. Through my writing, I want every woman with disabilities like me to not feel alone. I want them to know that there are many people who feel the same way - the same sadness, the same depression - and they are not alone in facing it," she explained during a phone call.

"Besides being a therapy, writing is also a medium for self-reflection. Writing is a catharsis between me and the feelings I cannot express," she continued.

Writing was Stella's way of unravelling her thoughts and feelings. She chose writing instead of talking to someone who would pretend to be a good listener. She looks forward to the day when she can speak to others about herself with freedom and without fear.

Poems and Disability Activism

The poems of Stella express her wounds, restlessness, and a spirit of resistance against the stigma of disabilities, as in the poem titled "Wheel:"

This war is cruel

Striding amidst chaos

Day and night it keeps turning

Wheel amidst uncertainty

Probing the noisy heart

Familiar tones in the ears

Can you, with your wheel

Navigate through life

This slap

Touches me deeply

Just smile

And prove.

In her second book, her poems begin to reflect Stella's increasingly mature fight against the stigma of disabilities.

Ekawati Liu, an Indonesian Deaf activist, once said, "Many people with disabilities experience wounds throughout their entire lives. They realize that being born with a different physical condition has effects such as excessive sympathy, negative labeling, discriminatory behavior, and often unfulfilled rights."

The wounds of people with disabilities do not heal quickly, and the healing process requires patience and perseverance. Every person with a disability should work on healing their wounds one by one until they feel whole, independent, and brave enough to face reality.

Through her poems, Stella demonstrates her ability to self-reflect and develop the strength to combat ableist practices and support destigmatization. Her goal is to provide herself and others with disabilities with an opportunity to achieve independence and harness their capabilities for the greater good.

Regarding life without stigma, Stella describes it as:

running fast

not being afraid of falling.

Life with stigma, on the other hand:

life is like masquerade

Every eye sees.

Stella's mindset guides her,

the world is not a curse

inability to give birth

manipulation of moral refinement.

These words express her opposition to mystical and moral-based thinking about the lives of people with disabilities.

In the poem titled "Merakit," Stella has a stanza that implies a movement supporting people with disabilities:

to build dreams

on a blank white paper

versified by the servants of the soul.

"Servants of the soul" refers to people who act based on their conscience, a conscience closely related to a dimension of humanity. Here, Stella became part of the people, who served in the name of humanity's conscience.

Stella comprehends the complicated discourse that arose from oppression of people by others who become oppressors. This discourse views people with disabilities as sinful, sick or pitiful.[1] This is evident in her poetry, her contribution to a movement supporting people with disabilities.

Stella2.jpgStella and her Learn Sign Language community, Freedom House (Rumah Merdeka), 2022.

In 2019, after publishing her first poetry book, Stella, along with her friends, established the Jombang Disability Volunteer Class. She later joined an education program for disability activists at GRADIASI school and became involved in the disability movement in Indonesia. Through interactions with disability activists and writers, Stella deepened her understanding of ableism and ableist attitudes.

Stella3.jpgDiscussion of book Thrown Away but Still Loved at SMP Junior High School of Muhammadiyah Boarding School, Jombang, 2022.

Stella4.jpgStella in the launching of her second book of poems, Jombang City Square, 2024.

Stella is currently completing her bachelor's thesis at the University of Darul 'Ulum Jombang. Her research focuses on the relationship between family support and psychological well-being of people with disabilities. This research is significant for Stella as it aligns with her advocacy of fighting for the rights of children with disabilities, and emphasizing the importance of family and societal support.

Ishak Salim and Zakia are book lovers and authors. They love writing as much as reading poems. They belong to Media Ekspedisi Difabel.

For further information, please contact: Media Ekspedisi Difabel, ph Ishak: +628124106722, Zakia: +6289523085444,, e-mails: &


[1] The discourse includes mystical, medical, and moral perspectives. Mystic-based societal perspective views disabilities as supernatural conditions linked to past sins, God's test, or karma. Medical-based societal perspective often perceives a person with disabilities as sick, needing rehabilitation and cure. Moral-based perspective regards people with disabilities as deserving pity, continuous assistance, and so forth.