“Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged with man.” Rabindranath Tagore.
We are doing a Bump Shoot for one Mwende Josephine. It’s a sunny Monday afternoon. The landscaping of this place gives an impression of an away place-an oasis of a sort. The cameraman insists we wait for the sun to cool down. See, nature is a woman, I have always thought of it that way. You can’t force it. It takes its time, or is it her time? Josephine is on her last phase and she keeps making these funny remarks, “it’s coming, hebu harakisheni” and for a moment I almost take her seriously. Thing is, there is nothing more unsettling to a man than pregnancy. Oh and death too. I guess cos’ we are reminded of moments of life- moments when a life arrives or exits. Josephine radiates with life. She carries her life with a subtle sense of humor-which I find charming. We chat. She engages me in her life story.
Life, starts and in-between…
Josephine was born with a condition called Cerebral Palsy, you can read more here. This meant her body movement and muscle co-ordination was affected. A first-born in a family of four, her childhood was shadowed by love and warmth of her a loving mom and siblings. Not going through conventional school, shielded her from stereotypes and challenges of interacting with other children. Growing through Joytown schools was a reprieve and an opportunity to grow like a normal child. She was never fully conscious of her challenges until she joined Zetech College. Joining college posed a real challenge to her. From the delivery of the curriculum and inaccessibility to the learning facilities to paying extra charges for her to sit for her exams. She had to adapt. She had to reinvent herself and find ways of fitting in and catching up with the fast-paced college life. This came at an extra cost. She talks about her lowest moment coming from the realization of her challenges and system(s) that was unaccommodating. However, amidst all these challenges nothing could stop her from pursuing and completing a course in accountancy.
After completing college, she got a job though on temporary basis as a data entry clerk at the NSSF. She beams with happiness recalling her experience at the NSSF. To Josephine her experience at NSSF has been great with the fact that her colleagues treated her like a normal person and even the supervisors gave her the same amount of work like the rest.
“I love my independence. I want to be able to take care of my personal needs without relying on anyone. I want that empowerment, not sympathy.”
Her voice resonates the voice of every person with a disability-a desire for opportunities instead of pity.
We find comfort in our norms. Somehow we build our dreams around that. It is comforting, no lie about that. But I believe we cease to live the moment we get stuck in comfort zones. Leaving our comfort zones is surely unsettling. However, in those unsettling moments lies the greatest human experience(s).
You’re going to be a mother in a few weeks, how is that coming up for you?
Yes! And I am excited about it. I want to be the best mother in the world.
Chuckle He is there. It’s a whole level of challenge for him and I understand. He has questions, I can’t offer answers to but you know nimejipanga.
And that over there is nothing but boldness.
Today as we celebrate women’s international day, we celebrate Josi’s boldness to sire life amidst her disability. She has risen over stereotypes and stigma surrounding persons with disabilities and sexuality. We celebrate her for boldly facing her greatest fears and embracing womanhood.