I love the words ‘disability is not inability’. I love the idea that despite life handing rough cards to persons living with disabilities, the human spirit of resilience shines through when they do things that even surpass their able bodied counterparts. I also love it when they’re are given some extra push, if only to build onto their already resilient spirits and to enable them to do great things. We have seen enabling initiatives towards our brothers and sisters living with disabilities and some of the most notable ones come from the private sector.
Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Carol Mutanu, a beneficiary of the Wezesha Jamii program by Godrej Kenya in partnership with the Council of Governors. The Corporate Social Responsibility program works by offering free training in hair dressing and beauty to the less privileged members of society, and then goes further to organize job placement for some trainees upon completion of the course.
Carol is a much loved hairdresser in a salon in Kitui CBD where she has been employed for a little over a year now. She got the job after successfully completing her course at the Darling hair and beauty center courtesy of Wezesha Jamii. What sets Carol apart is that she was born with a congenital birth defect that affected her lower extremities. She therefore cannot and has never moved around except with the help of a wheelchair.
Given that her life has not always been roses and all things nice, one may be forgiven to expect Carol to have a defeated demeanor. Not so. The first thing you notice about her is how vivacious she is as she goes about her work and her relations with her clients and colleagues. Also, her services are in high demand at the salon and with her charisma and attention to detail, it is not difficult to see why.
Sure, there have been challenges here and there now and in the past. Like when she couldn’t get someone to help her get off bed and onto her wheelchair, or someone to wheel her around. This was especially a nagging problem when she was at the Darling hair and beauty training center which is not exactly close to where she was staying. This problem continued to plague her even when she started working because the salon at which she got a job was not near her home. Our towns are not exactly known for regular paving or any paving at all. But she has since managed to rent a house right next door to her place of work and life is now as much of a breeze as can be in her circumstances.
Carol’s determination and zest for life have seen her through quite a bit, and the fruits are clear as she’s now able to fend for herself and her little daughter. Besides, her mother and 7 siblings are always at hand to help out when they can.
Education is one of the most powerful ways of integrating persons with disabilities into society and it is a good thing that Godrej came through for Carol. With the odds she has had to beat in life, this has brought her quite a long way.