The blog is my personal inspirations on the issues that are dear to me. I am passionate about the rights of women and girls to live in dignity, and transformative leadership. Desiderata inspires me, that I am a child of the universe and I Inspire others that you can Dare to Dream
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Gifted differently: Sexuality and disability
“The only disability in life is a
bad attitude” Scott Hamilton
Today I remember one great lady
that I know. She was crying inconsolably, and many could barely understand what
she was saying. This was unlike her usual bubbly smiling self. She was in pain.
Eventually someone deciphered what she was crying about. We understood it then,
she had been forced to have an abortion and she was bitter about this. She is deaf;
she cannot hear or speak hence the difficulties in understanding what she was
trying to communicate. She was not born with the condition but it developed after
childhood illness hence she has never known speech. Her situation was
complicated and I could tell where her family was coming from. She had two more
children and did not have any gainful engagement. It was hard bringing up her
children. The other element of her story is that it was never clear if she had
been a willing participant or she had been raped. Apparently the perpetrator
was known but nothing had ever been done.
Or was he a perpetrator or was she a willing participant? Did her family
ever entertain the thought that she had sexual feelings and willingly had sex
with this man? What about her, did she want another baby? She was not asked. It
is evident that she loves her children to death! Touch her child and she could
kill you, and I mean this literarily as some incidence had demonstrated how far
she could go to protect her children. But this did not matter, nobody asked
her, or advised her about some safety precautions. They made a decision to
terminate her pregnancy.
What rights to persons living
with disabilities have on sexuality? ALL.
One can never fully understand
something until you face a circumstance that is similar. You get to realize
that nobody can actually feel your pain much as they try. When I got into an
incident on August 21st this year, it led realization of just what
being incapacitated means. I fractured my ankle and from the time I first left
hospital in Yei South Sudan to the house then to Nairobi vie Entebbe I somehow
came to get a glimpse of what persons living with disabilities go through in
accessing the public utilities. While I received a lot of support from friends
and strangers during this journey, I could not help noticing how the world is
not fully set to accommodate this. I noticed how insensitive to physical
disabilities the facilities are. I noted how steep stair cases were. I recall
while waiting to board the flight in Entebbe the flight staff requested the
other passengers to wait as I and some women who had small babies boarded
first. The crowd surged forward and we sat back to wait for them to board. I
could not blame them, the flight had delayed and one gets the feeling of
arriving faster if your boarder first. I
have spent more than 3 months not able to be my normal self with support from
family and friends, yet the journey can only be travelled not imagined.
The experience is nothing
compared to the experiences that those living with disabilities face. More so
the invisible forms of violations that are informed by the social beliefs as to
what they do or do not deserve.
On this 9th Day of the 16 Days of
Activism, I remember the persons living with disability on the International
Day of the Disabled. While women world
over experience more forms of gender based violence, women living with
disability experience unique forms of violence. My Masters Degree thesis
focused on challenges that women with disabilities face in accessing sexual and
reproductive health services. This included how they are treated when they go
to hospitals when pregnant, or to access other related services. I still recall
some of the stories shared by the women. The social stigma is incomprehensible.
What comes to mind when you see a disabled pregnant woman?
I asked several people that
question and most answered that the first thought was that either the woman has
been raped or she is very careless to allow pregnancy while disabled. At the
most basic level they are denied the right to sexual expression, bringing up
families etc. some shared facing physical, sexual and economic violence to various
degrees. One woman was almost having her baby exchanged in hospital and it was
only because of her assertive nature that it did not happen. She had albinism
and gave birth to a normal colored baby while another woman in the same
hospital gave birth to an albino child.
Some were left to give birth on the floor since they could not access
the bed and nobody was willing to help.
The experiences shared were
touching and inhuman.
On this Word Disability day, I
remember women and men who have suffered various forms of gender based violence
that has been made worse by their disability. I remember many women and even men who have
been disabled by gender based violence; the many who are denied their right to
It is about our attitude, not the
other person’s ability or lack of.
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy”. Nhat Hanh
She smiled. I looked up and smiled. We both smiled. We both knew that this was not just a coincidence but a meaningful smile.
“You could smile more often” I had told her several months ago.
I met this young woman in a guest house while travelling in a field site in Uganda. She works in the guest house and I had noted how she was acting and wondered if she knew life is too short to live with a sad face. She was far from polite but something about her pulled me towards her. I thought of her as young woman struggling with life’s challenges and wondering when the day would end, starting another day and the drudgery continued. One day after telling me in a “do-not-disturb-me” tone that what I needed was not available, I called her aside and started chit chatting with her. I reminded her that she was in the hospitality industry that required that one be hospitable to others…
That is a common judgment that is used on women and girls, over and over again. the narrative seeks to establish how the victim contributed
to what happened to her.
In the recent past there has been several incidents of reported rape cases in Kenya involving high profile individuals or highly publicized incidents. Some are in the process of legal proceedings so I will not get into details. With social media such incidents are highly publicized and the ‘online experts’ immediately start giving ‘analytical input’ into the incidents. In one case, there was an immediate reaction on doubting if this was true and even how this was a “date gone wrong”. That caught my interest, a date is equal to saying yes to sex? In Kenya it is very hard to hear about date rapes. This is not because that does not happen but because there is an assumption that when you say yes to one thing, then it is a yes to everything else. If you did not intent to have sex, do not go out fo…