The Kuria community believes that disability is a curse. Bad fate for the family and an entire community. Unfortunately, when Nyamhanga was born with a disability she had to go through stigmatisation and neglect. Her parents eventually disappeared, leaving her under the care of her grandmother who supported the female genital mutilation (FGM) practice in her community. Luckily, Nyamhanga was identified, supported and rescued from undergoing FGM.
In Tarime, Tanzania, it is believed that disability is a curse. Some members from the community, the Kuria, have gone to the extent of killing children with disabilities to eliminate the ´bad omen.' That is why when Nyamhanga´s mother discovered that her two-year old daughter was both mentally and physically disabled, she found it to be too much for her to handle. Born in 2010, Nyamhanga could neither walk, speak nor feed herself. This made her wholly dependent on her family.
It did not take long before neighbours learnt of Nyamhanga´s disability. The family started facing stigmatisation. The people of Nyabichune village, where twelve-year old Nyamhanga was born, said that the girl´s family was ill-fated. The discriminatory village dwellers added that Nyamhanga´s ´curse´ would soon affect the whole village. The prejudice and hatred that increased everyday, became unbearable for her parents. In December 2015, Nyamhanga´s father fled to an unknown destination to disassociate himself from the family. His wife followed suit in February 2016, leaving Nyamhanga and her 15 year old sister under the care of their grandmother.
With her income of 76 Euros, which she earned from small-scale farming, Nyamhanga´s grandmother solely took care of her two grandchildren. Even though she tried her best, looking at their deplorable condition, it was evident that the responsibilities were too much for her. The family of three lives in mud-walled and thatched huts. Within the homestead, lies a dilapidated latrine —a small structure whose walls are clustered with banana leaves.
Nyamhanga´s dependency on the family became tough for her grandmother, who saw her as burdensome. Sometimes, she was abandoned under a tree as they went to the farm. Aside from the neglect that Nyamhanga was subjected to, her grandmother supported female genital mutilation. She was determined to uphold their harmful Kuria culture that strongly believed in FGM as a transition to womanhood. Nyamhanga was clearly in grave danger.
Luckily for her, in June 2022, our project partner in Tanzania identified Nyamhanga and her family. Her grandmother participated in a workshop, where she learnt about the dangers of FGM which include severe bleeding, shock due to excess pain, chronic genital pains and even death.
Through the awareness she received, she was convinced that cutting Nyamhanga would do more harm than good. Therefore, she was discouraged from the thought of practicing FGM and decided not to perform it on her granddaughters. She was also offered counselling and psychosocial support. After she went through counselling, Nyamhanga´s grandmother started being more keen on taking care of the child, and tremendous improvement was noted by the project team. Furthemore, she is willing to take her to a school for children with disabilities if she receives support. Regular follow-ups are also ongoing, to check on Nyamhanga’s welfare and that of her grandmother.