October 15 is International Day of Rural Women! Today, we stand beside the UN and our global partners in celebrating the invaluable contributions of women who live in rural, under-resourced communities and yet continue to provide for their families, care for their neighbors, and support economic growth for their nations.
Among these strong women are mothers of children with disabilities, most of whom endure discrimination, neglect, social exclusion, abuse and isolation from those in their families and communities who believe they have caused their child to be disabled.
In January we met one of such mothers when we ran a disability advocacy workshop for parents from the rural area of Mwawesa. During this session, Simba told us about the ridicule she has faced from people who believe she used witchcraft to “pay” for success at the expense of her child’s health:
“People say ‘this child is bewitched!’ When I do chicken rearing and make money they say ‘you have sacrificed your child — that’s why you are succeeding. You have sacrificed your child — that’s why you are dressing her well. ’”
Despite the emotional and social stress, Simba wakes up every day and fights for Agnus’ health. She works hard in her farm, brings Agnus to receive medicine from the health center and travels hours to Mombasa so Agnus can receive therapy to help her muscles gain strength and mobility. She also came to Kupenda’s parents workshop so she could learn more about Agnus’ rights and the services available to her.
“It’s painful,” she told us. “When I see other children walking I feel sad – I wish my child could have been given this chance.”
Fortunately, during our workshop Simba was connected to a parent’s support group where she now receives emotional, financial and social support from other parents of children with disabilities. Today Simba continues to work hard and advocate for Agnus’ rights. She also provides an example of strength and perseverance to other mothers coping with their children’s disabilities.
We are grateful for persistent and loving women like Simba and celebrate her incredible strength on International Day of Rural Women.