Have you been stripped of assets very dear to your life before? For some mothers in the Northern region, the response would be affirmative; many have been stripped of the joy of being called mothers due to some form of disabilities in their children. These children in the past have been executed by fetish priests in line with tradition. There is a myth that these kids are marine spirits, snakes, and crocodiles and they are allowed to live will devour their parents.
Born some 26 years ago to the late Iddrisu Yamba and Zulfawu Iddrisu both natives of Moshie Zongo, a suburb of Tamale, Hamida Iddrisu as told by her mother was born without any form of disability until three weeks after her birth when her mother discovered she could not stand on her laps.
That was few days into the death of her father. After the entire funeral rites, five siblings including Hamida were divided into two – one group lived with the mother with the others moving in with family members of their late father. She joined her mother’s group.
Few months after mourning her husband, Hamida’s mother married another man and per the Dagomba tradition, she could not move in with her new husband together with children from another marriage, hence the decision to live Hamida together with her other two siblings under the care of her grandmother Mma Ayishetu Abubakari. Her condition became worse after her mother finally relocated to her new husband’s house.
After five years, Hamida was yet to take her first step as a toddler, this according to her mother triggered calls from family members for the execution of little Hamida, a supposed snake spirit born into the family, an act which is carried out under the cover of darkness.
“I could not sit at age five and that was when some family members suggested to my mother to allow them to kill me, that act is known as ‘sheibo” in Dagbani. I began crawling and walked subsequently some two years later”. She had been diagnosed with trisomy syndrome.
Though Mma Zulfawu had intense pressure to kill her daughter, she did not allow their words to subdue her motherly love.
Hamida recounts the several stories told her by the grandmother before her passing on. She was told of the countless nights of weeping and vigil by her mother who sometimes sneaked into her grandmother’s house from her matrimonial home to be with Hamida to ensure her child is not taken away in the middle of the night as seen in other cases.
Her grandmother who had noticed her desire in education, took steps to enrol her in the Al-Saqaat Basic School in Tamale at age eight.
“At school, before I could write letter A my teacher Madam Mauritia had to sharpen my pencil like six times and by the close of the day I would have used a full packet of pencil or with just about two pencils left in the pack. My case became worse at upper primary since I had to use pen in writing, this time I wasn’t using a pack of pen since those can’t be sharpened, I rather would tear up my book since I needed to press on my pen so hard on the book”.
She proceeded to Nuria Junior High School and the day of reckoning beckoned. During her Basic Education Certificate Examination, she recounts how glarely an instruction that demanded that persons with disabilities be given two extra hours to write the exams stared at her yet she was denied that opportunity and made to write within the same hours just like her colleagues without disabilities.
Her teachers who had promised to draw the attention of the invigilators to her disability failed to do so but as determined as she was, she got aggregate 22. “My teachers only remembered my situation and the difficulties I was facing on the last two papers and even that it was almost time to end that Thursday’s paper, I thought they would have come the next day which was a Friday and the last paper to inform the invigilator since he was a new person and wasn’t aware of my case but again, that also didn’t happen but I got aggregate twenty two (22)”.
This treatment of denying her extra time continued even in her senior high school days. She recalled how her Form Master at the Savelugu Senior High School bluntly told her that he could not afford her extra time because he had other things to do.
“Again in Savelugu Senior High School I was denied extra time during examination and this was my own Form Master, Mr Bashiru, he told me he had no time to wait for me so I ended the same time with my colleagues, I passed all the subjects with the exception of mathematics which I trailed”.
With the desire to further her education in one of the teacher training colleges, she attended extra classes to re-sit the Mathematics paper with financial support from her uncle who resided in the U.S.A. She was still unsuccessful and the support from abroad also ceased. She then began searching for assistance and lo and behold, she met a good Samaritan who got her admission into the Tamale Polytechnic to study Higher National Diploma in Accounting. Reality donned on her again that she cannot afford the school fees. With a very faint faith, Hamida said, she began hunting for sponsors and that was when she came into contact with CAMFED and Creating Change. The two non-governmental organizations assisted her financially to pay her fees and rent a single room accommodation close to the institute to enable her attend lectures with little challenge.
She revealed lecturers at the Tamale Polytechnic were the only ones that took into consideration her condition at her second year and supported her through the six semesters as a student.
“At T’Poly I never paid for lecture notes though they were for sale and my lecturers gave me some extra time during each examination,” she recounted.
There was no stage in Hamida’s life that she never had challenges, beginning from her childhood through her education where she lost her grandmother, her only support during basic, junior, and senior high schools days.
She depended on people’s benevolence for her upkeep even after completing her studies at the polytechnic until she started her national service where she was paid allowances which supported her to pay her bills. That income also ended after the National Service and she is back to square one having to depend on philanthropists again. Her mother is unemployed and has her other siblings to take care of.
I asked her if there has been a moment of regret or pain in her life as a physically challenged person. She responded: “I have been harassed sexually severally by men I requested for help from. There was a time that only God saved me because this man pounced on me after he asked me to sit on his laps and I refused after luring me into his room with the promise of giving me money. I had to follow him to his house for the money because I didn’t know he had ill intentions”.
After she served her nation through the National Service at the transport unit of the Tamale Polytechnic, Hamida is yet to get employment though she has written applications to some firms for employment.
The Sustainable Development Goal 8 talks about promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all, including persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value.
Hamida intimated that her condition could be the reason why she has been denied all jobs that she applied for. She is not encouraged to go on the streets to beg for money. She is determined to secure a decent a job so she could live a decent life free of harassment to enable her support her siblings.
By Zubaida Ismail |TV3|3news.com