Sonja, tell us something about yourself and your work experience. When did you start working in the cement plant and in what position?
In November 2021, I started to work in the cement plant as a general administration officer – receptionist. By the way, my business engagement will begin in 2014, when I will be employed on a temporary engagement in public works of persons with disabilities in the citizens’ association “OSI Center” in Paracin, of which I am president from 2019 until today. Before that, I periodically worked as a trader.
What problems do people with disabilities face when looking for work and employment?
The problems are very big. At the root of all these problems is ignorance and insufficient education of employers. Employers believe that employing people with disabilities brings with them a great responsibility and are willing to pay compensation to the state before hiring such a person. I would like to mention that when I talk about people with disabilities, I mean people with congenital disabilities, not acquired ones. There is a huge difference. These are people who, all their lives, through growing up, schooling, and finally employment, if they manage to get a job, face the great prejudices that prevail in our society.
Is this your first job in a multinational company? How have you adapted to the new business environment?
Yes, this is my first meeting with a multinational company and with the company in general and employment in the true sense of the word. Although I have been part of the company for a relatively short time, I think I fit in well with the team. The first impression I gained with my arrival does not leave me even now, and that is that interpersonal relations within the company are at a very high level in terms of tolerance and respect for diversity.
The terms diversity and inclusion have often been heard in companies and society lately. What do these terms mean to you? How do you define them?
Diversity does not necessarily mean something bad, on the contrary, when there is diversity, there is also different thinking and views on situations and problems. One opinion – one solution, more opinions – more solutions.
Inclusion means accepting diversity and giving each employee the appropriate responsibilities according to his or her abilities.
Fortunately, the company I work for has learned some important things and put them into practice. I am proof of that myself. The idea and later the decision to hire a person with a disability as a receptionist shows that there is no prejudice here.
What would you say to young people with disabilities, who are just finishing school and starting life?
The most important thing is not to give up. Society is full of prejudices, but that does not mean that the first closed door should be withdrawn and given up. It is difficult, but persistence pays off.
People with disabilities are best encouraged by their own experiences. That’s why I tell my story. I got my first “real” job at the age of 42, but I didn’t give up all the previous ones. I was persistent. And I came across a company that values expertise, enthusiasm and desire to work, no matter if it is men, women, the elderly, young people or people with disabilities.