By Nigel Pfunde
When the Mupedzanhunha couple was blessed with a bouncing baby daughter in rural Chiredzi twenty-two years ago, they were elated.
However, the bliss was to be dampened after they learnt that their daughter had multiple disabilities.
She could neither talk, hear nor see! Ironically, they named her Onai (literally translated to see).
The now twenty-two year old was born partially blind but at the age of nine, she completely lost her sight and becoming both visually and speech impaired. Her parents were shattered and thought their world had crashed.
Unbeknown to them, there was a star on Onai. She was just like a dormant volcano waiting to erupt!.
In 2009, she enrolled at Copota School For the Blind located at a farm 18km north of Masvingo. She was to fall into the care of an experienced teacher by the name of Sithembile Marare. It was in the country’s oldest town that Onai discovered a new rare talent.
“When she came here we could tell that she was special,” revealed her teacher Mrs Marare.
Onai is a multi talented crafts person.
She specializes in weaving, beading knitting, paper mashing and sewing. She uses wool, recycled plastics among other materials to make sleeping mats and couch covers. Her works have been showcased on television.
And aren’t they a sight for sore eyes!
Despite the state of her physiology , Onai’s works of art are a cut above the rest. She uses her sense of touch and smell to execute her craft. At a workshop held by Unicef and it’s partners in Harare recently, Onai exhibited her craft with great finesse. Her teacher revealed that Onai has a lot of stock that she will sell after she is weaned from Copota School For the Blind.
“Talent has no boundaries, we can all be worried about saying the wrong thing when it comes to disability.
However, it can often be simple as having an open attitude and letting people with disabilities lead the conversation. Every disabled person is different so there is no single rule about how to talk about disability,” opined Maxwell Bhake, a social worker.
Speaking on the sidelines of the workshop that was meant to propose solutions to promote the rights of children with disabilities hosted by UNICEF and it’s partners, founder and director of Thisability Hub Tapiwa Tsikai said social behavioral change barriers hindered the people living with disabilities to expose their full potential.
“People with disabilities are naturally talented individuals, however, their talents are hardly exposed because of inaccessibility of society.
“Society has to create systems, platforms and strategies that enable people with disabilities to showcase their talent, because as much as they are talented and the environment is not enabling, their talent will continue to go unseen,” said Tsikai.
In June 2021, the Zimbabwe government introduced the National Disability Policy which was designed to improve the well being of persons with disabilities and their families in both rural and urban areas.
The government took cognisance of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities(2016, thereby upholding the principle of social dialogue with persons with disabilities and their families and representative organisations.
However, despite the existence of the policy, a survey established that on the ground, there is great need to improve inclusion due to several social behavioral change barriers .