Bishara Hamo underwent forced Female Genital Mutilation as a child, and will live with the scars all her life....
At 10 years, Trezza Thuo went to hospital for treatment. However, she got an injection that made her permanently disabled
How did your disability come about?
I was born normal, but at the age of 10 I got sick and was taken to hospital where I was given an injection. After going back home, my parents realised that I could not walk. They took me back to the hospital the following day where they were told that I had a nerve injury and my right leg could no longer function properly.
How did you feel?
The heartbreaking news left me worried because I had no idea how I would deal with the situation and if my friends would accept me.
Did you face any challenges growing up?
Yes. Growing up was not easy because those days people had a negative attitude towards people with disability. I went to Khalsa Primary School and it was really hard to cope with other children as they were unfriendly.
I would spend most of the time alone. In class one, I remember an Asian teacher who did not even bother about me. She kept scolding me every time and I couldn’t help but cry because I felt unwanted. I think she imagined that with the disability, my brain was also retarded.
Were things any better in high school?
No. Life in high school was equally hard for me as there was a flyover which I had to cross every morning and evening. It was very tiring and most of the time I would be left behind struggling to climb. Even during games lessons I would stay in class alone and my P.E. Teacher never encouraged me to participate in any game. There was no inclusion during our time.
What is the most humiliating experience of your life?
I can’t forget an incident where I got into a matatu with my mother and the conductor said “Ndio huyu yule mschina wa machuma” (here is the girl with metals). I felt bad and it left a deep imprint in my heart. Whenever we traveled I had to sit behind the driver because my caliper could not fold. My mother would cry throughout the journey because she felt humiliated.
How was your love life?
It was full of drama! Men would approach me, but as the relationship went on I realized that they were not comfortable walking with me. Some would want to meet me in hidden places or at night. As a person with disability many people tend to take advantage of you sexually.
Did you encounter problems when you were looking for a job?
Yes. There was a time I went for a job interview and I emerged the best of all the candidates but I was denied that chance because of my disability. They cited that I would have inconveniences in the work place. If only employers could know how hardworking and efficient people with disability are, they wouldn’t deny them job opportunities.
When did things change for the better?
While still in primary school, I sat down one day and thought critically about my situation. I decided to become someone worthy despite my condition and started believing that no one and nothing could deter me from making it in life. After this reflection, I really worked hard in my studies. One time in high school, my class teacher counselled me to stop pitying myself because of how the other students were treating me. This helped me to regain my self-esteem and I decided it was time to strive for greatness and there was no turning back.
Have you achieved your dreams?
Yes, and I can proudly say that everything in this world is achievable as long as you believe in yourself. I am currently pursuing my undergraduate degree in Business Administration at Mt. Kenya University.
I have formed an initiative called Jiamini which is meant to empower people with disability (PWD). It’s high time they start celebrating themselves rather than wallowing in self-pity. The initiative also aims to promote economic growth through a fund where PWDs can acquire loans and repay at low interest rates.
I have also recorded an album with a song titled Jiamini which encourages PWDs to believe in themselves and to overcome their inabilities. I thank God because I met a good man who never took advantage of me, we are happily married and blessed with three children.
What advice would you give to parents of children with disability?
I encourage parents with such children not to hide them but to help them discover their talents and raise their self esteem. In fact I thank my parents for raising me as an ordinary child and I grew up performing chores at home. With this I never saw myself as different.
Parents should know that children with disability have special gifts which God gave them and no one has the right to demean them. They should come together, talk freely about their children’s condition and feel comforted that they are not alone in this journey.