For 25 years Sinikiwe Nikki Kademaungame has dealt with stares and whispers because of her disability. She hasn’t allowed this deter her. Sinikiwe is passionate about changing mindsets on disability issues, changing lives and giving hope to others. The certified life coach, social worker, motivational speaker and entrepreneur walked GRAHAM MUKUHA through her life.
Born and raised in Zimbabwe abwe, Sinikiwe Nikki Kademaungame is often identified as the short girl because of her disability. This led her to name her blog Life in the Shoes of a Short Girl, a platform she uses to inspire others through her life.
“Having a disability in Zimbabwe like many other African countries comes with myths and stereotypes which are culturally linked. In my case, my disability was viewed as a curse from the gods and my mother was always to blame. Consequently, my paternal family couldn’t accept that I was born with a disability and therefore I was raised by my grandmother. I never got to experience parental love and in my younger days, I couldn’t understand why my parents had to abandon me. Now in retrospect, I am grateful that I got to be raised by the strongest woman I know of; my grandmother. She treated me like any normal child with a great destiny ahead of her. With her there was no room for self-pity, she made me believe in myself from a very early age.
I was the only child with a disability in my community and as I played with my age mates, I realised how different I was. This was especially when my peers would hurt me during playtime or when they made negative comments referring to my physic. This affected my self-esteem and as a self-defense mechanism I was violent and cruel.
With the encouragement of my grandmother, I learned to be self-reliant. I learnt to hold things using my limbs, feed myself and hold a pen which opened up an opportunity to education. My movement within the school was limited as it was difficult to access certain places because the infrastructure was not friendly to a person with disability. Some of the places were inaccessible to me because of the stairs. In addition I had to walk a long distance to school which was tiring and by the time I got there I was exhausted and couldn’t focus in class. Eventually I was enrolled into a boarding school making my studies easier.
Other than studying, I have had to work hard to gain self-confidence. First I began being mindful of what I exposed myself to. I drew great inspiration from my all-time favourite role model Nick Vujicic. His courage to embrace life and celebrate his uniqueness brought to an end the torturous years of asking myself why I was different. I realized I was different because I needed to be and that my destiny was different from that of others.
When I joined University, I had some time of reflection which led me to self-awareness. I got to understand my body and the type of clothes that brought out my best features. Gradually, I started embracing my life and liked everything about it. This was when also the time I learnt I couldn’t solve all my problems by being bitter and violent. In a sense I was reborn.
A quote by Reinhold Niebuhr formed part of my daily meditation. The quote says God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. By accepting myself, the world has learnt to accept me too.
Today my passion is to change people’s mindsets on issues of disability and inspire them. Based on my experience I believe that the way a parent socializes their child with a disability is key. There is need to treat them as you would, any normal child. In my case my grandmother loved to show me to the world and that went a long way in building my confidence. It is also important for parents to guide their children rather than doing everything for them because this doesn’t build their independence. Don’t focus on your child’s inabilities; let him or her fly. And to the children love yourself as you are; unique, beautiful and different. Be you, the world will adjust!