The word “overcomer” is one often overused. But in the case of Sinikiwe Kademaunga, who has a disability, overcomer is a fitting term.

My name is Sinikiwe Kademaunga, aged 25. I was born without full limbs, which makes me very short in stature. I did my primary and high school at St Faith’s while residing at Jairos Jiri. I am the last born in a family of five and the only one with a disability. My parents died when I was very young.

Disability is no curse

Growing up with a disability is such a big challenge in our society; especially in Africa where disability is viewed as a curse or witchcraft. Such beliefs make people with disabilities vulnerable, because of the treatment they receive from society. I was very privileged to be raised by a very strong and supportive woman. 
Against All Odds – Overcoming Disability with Sinikiwe “Nikki” Kademaunga
Against All Odds – Overcoming Disability with Sinikiwe “Nikki” Kademaunga
I can describe my grandmother as a headstrong woman who I thought was disabled in her inability to see my disability. I moved in with her when I was two. She looked beyond my disability and accepted me the way I am. She managed to send me to school at the age of 7 at Jairos Jiri Rusape.

Tough love

At that time sending a child with disability to school at such a young age was something very rare in our society. She was the first person to believe in me and she gave me hope. She raised me like any other child. She often made me do the dishes, clean the house, wash my clothes and any other house chores. She always expressed that I was not different from anyone else hence I had to take the same tasks without assistance. Some of the skills I attained were God-given; they came naturally, for example writing. When I started Grade One at boarding school, I was able to do basic chores like washing my body and writing.

Limitless potential

At that time I used to see her as someone who was very cruel who did not see my disability and did not feel any pity for me. Now when I look back, I can actually say that was the best gift I have ever received in my life. I am proud to say that I can now do anything using both arms. I have realised that when you have a disability or any difficult situation in life do not limit yourself. The sky is only the limit.
I always look beyond my disability; instead of thinking of what I cannot do, I think of what I can do. The legacy that my grandmother left with me is ‘I am not different from anyone else but I just do things differently.’

Currently I am studying social work at the University of Cape Town. The foundation that was laid by my grandmother enabled me to be an independent and hardworking woman. Which brings me to the point that having a disability does not mean a charity case.

I am not a charity case

One beautiful day when I was walking in Harare when I noticed a man staring at me, in obvious awe. The pushcart he had with him suggested he was a jega. He pulled a dollar out of his pocket and held it out towards me. I rejected his kind gesture for obvious reasons. First I did not ask for any financial assistance and, second, he seemed to need the money more than me. From my own experience I have realised that people have a charity mind set towards disability. All we need is support, inclusion and empowerment, so that we can be more independent and manage our own lives.

To other people with disabilities: be positive about life, focus on your abilities rather than disabilities. The sky is only the limit and do not forget to look good always.

Sinikiwe Kademaunga is a social work student at UCT.