First Lady engages people with disability. . . meeting a first of its kind First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa assists a woman to walk after handing her clutches during an interactive session with people with disability in Chitungwiza yesterday. — Pictures: John Manzongo

Tendai Rupapa

Senior Reporter

AN electric atmosphere enveloped Chitungwiza yesterday where thousands of people with disabilities from Harare Province turned up on wheelchairs, wheelbarrows, and all manner of walking aides in a first-of-its-kind interactive session with First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa tackling empowerment issues, drug abuse and teen pregnancies, among other issues.

They defied their various impairments to sing, dance and ululate with joy thanking the mother of the nation for remembering them.

Dr Mnangagwa who has a passion for the economic empowerment of women, children, the aged and people with disabilities, among many other vulnerable groups, also initiated a train the trainer detergents and petroleum jelly-making project for them as part of her empowerment drive.

They will be given starter packs and certificates today after completing the two-day training, thanks to the First Lady’s Angel of Hope Foundation.

There were many cases of the disabled risking life and limb and exposing themselves to abuse while begging on roadsides, but Amai Mnangagwa changed the narrative yesterday by empowering them.

She handed over wheelchairs, walking frames, crutches, new born baby kits to pregnant women, sanitary pads and food hampers that included maize meal, rice and macaroni.

Amai Mnangagwa first addressed those undergoing training.

“Makadii vana baba nana amai. I have come to focus on you so that you participate in projects being done by others because the President is saying no one and no place must be left behind. I am focusing on men, women and children. This project is not for women alone, but it’s a family project. I say this because it will involve the boy and girl child because it needs time and concentration to avoid losses. This therefore ensures there is always someone at home so that we succeed and realise a lot through the project. It will make people know that at Mrs So and So’s house there is everything at reasonable prices. This will also help curb domestic violence. Domestic violence is everywhere including among you. It doesn’t matter that God created you this way, be happy for what you are because God created you that way and he has a purpose. If something comes targeting you, embrace it and let it give you something. There is something that you can do that an able bodied person cannot do so do not look down upon yourselves. As a family we want to combine what you know and what I know for our lives to go forward,” she said.

Dr Mnangagwa stressed the need for beneficiaries of the detergents training programme to train others in their communities to ensure the whole nation benefits.

“We are training you so that you may be able to train others who could not make it here. I want to hear from you where you intend to reach with this project. I brought my foundation along and said there is a family I haven’t seen. I want to see what they will achieve and let me take this project to them. What do you want to do with this project that we have started today? Who can tell us that now that we have started this project, what can we do with it and where can it take us?” she said.

In response, a discussant said she intended to go further with the project so that she quits begging.

People with disability learn how to make various types of detergents and petroleum jelly at a train the trainer programme organised by First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa through her Angel of Hope Foundation in Chitungwiza yesterday

“As I see it, we wish to have this project go far and sustain us so that we do not live in the lower ranks of society. We should not live off begging and receiving alms but stand on our own. As people living with albinism we should be able to buy our sun screen lotions while others with disabilities different from ours get something to sustain them and their families and not lack in everything. We should stop crying and be independent enough to work for ourselves,” she said.

The First Lady thanked the woman for her determination and courage.

“The words she has used are courageous. She says this now needs your determination, mind and strength. This issue of begging, there are nicknames you are given out there for begging. There are nicknames we were given and I have come to take off those derogatory names. They will not find you where they are used to seeing you at begging sites. I have come to take you away from the usual place where you are ordinarily seen. We have come to take away stereotypes against you. You are similar to the one who is talking ill about you. That person is going his way while you go your own way. Living and sustaining families is the same. If you enter into the project, I want to see you excelling and doing wonders. There is nothing to think about any more, the project has come. I want you to have a good name and be known for producing quality products which are good. “You will be taught everything, including packaging. I have also brought bottles for packaging and stickers. I encourage you to work together and not do an individual project. An individual project does not last, but when in a group you encourage one another. What is it that we expect from someone selling their product? she said.

A contributor said people always wanted to buy from people who practised good hygiene, good customer service, presentable and being cheerful.

Addressing the whole gathering, Dr Mnangagwa described the meeting as important.

“I am happy because God has his time. Today is an important day, God has made it possible for us to meet so that we plan together as a family. I also want to thank God for creating us all and God loves all his children. I saw that in you there is zeal and determination. That is why His Excellency the President established a disability unit in his office. I have come so that we can discuss together. As a mother I saw it prudent to join hands with the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare which has a department on disability so that my children with disabilities get projects to do. I am also working with the ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development where I was made Agric4she patron where I am leading women in terms of farming. I promised the ministry high yields because I know that women work. I am saying as women we must grab all projects with both hands so that we uplift our families, communities and our nation. A mother is the builder and moulder of the family,” she said to applause.

Through Agric4she, the First Lady said, many projects were rolled out like piggery, poultry, horticulture and cattle rearing among many other projects.

27 year old Yollanda Munyengwa with disability who is one of the first beneficiaries of nhanga/gota/ixhiba programme expresses her appreciation to First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa saying the lessons gained have transformed her and many youths around the country during an interactive session in Chitungwiza yesterday

“I also joined hands through my AOH foundation with Zimbabwe Open University and thousands of women have already graduated. I do not want you to be left behind my children. I want you to take part. All the projects I am initiating for you need to be buttressed by a course in business management so that you learn financial literacy and know how to manage your profits. I want you to be new creations using your hands and working as a family. Our children are ruined by drugs and they need us as parents to correct them by doing projects with them so that they do not think about drugs. I brought representatives from Women’s and Empowerment banks to educate you on how to access loans and I want you to utilise them so that you upgrade your projects. When you access loans, you must repay because it’s a revolving fund and also financial discipline is important. You are just like everyone else and do not accept to be looked down upon,” she said.

She asked boys and girls if they knew about Gota/Nhanga/Ixhiba and their purposes.

In response, Yolanda Munyengwa (27) said: “The Nhanga is where girls sleep and that is where the girl child is moulded as she grows up. I am glad I learnt a lot when I attended the First Lady’s gota/nhanga programme in Mbare.”

A boy said the Gota was for boys and that is where they were taught life lessons.

“What about drugs? What should we do about this issue which is affecting the whole nation? We are happy the police are arresting drug peddlers and those taking drugs. They are even using sniffer dogs even in buses. I urge communities to work with the police and report what is going on in your communities concerning drugs,” the First Lady said.

An elderly man concurred saying drugs were destroying and killing children.

“True, drugs are destroying and killing children. I have a son who is taking drugs. I have a disability and my son is able bodied so I looked forward to being looked after by him. How will he look after me when he dropped out of school because of drugs? We are being beaten by our children who no longer have respect due to drug abuse,” he said.

Mrs Edith Masango echoed similar views.

“Amai, it is everyone’s role to fight drugs. As community members we must police one another and report all we would have seen,” she said.

The First Lady spoke about her 575 toll-free line and urged people to utilise it and report.

There were many testimonies of parents who were sharing the challenges they face due to drug abuse by their children.

The First Lady took time to counsel people, especially youths on the dangers of drug and substance abuse.

A woman with albinism expresses her views on drugs and substance abuse during an interactive session with First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa in Chitungwiza yesterday

“Look after children because we are living in difficult times where drugs are destroying them. Vabereki, let children go to school and build their future,” she added.

In a speech read on his behalf by Mr Macnon chirinzepi, a director in his office, the President’s Special Advisor on Disability Issues Cde Joshua Malinga expressed gratitude to the First Lady for her unwavering commitment to the empowerment of persons with disabilities through her inclusive philanthropic work.

“You are a loving and caring mother whose tremendous humanitarian work leaves no person and no place behind. Thank you Amai, for being a pillar of strength to His Excellency the President of the Second Republic of Zimbabwe Dr E.D Mnangagwa in fulfilling the aspirations of Vision 2030 towards a prosperous and empowered upper middle income society. Your Excellency, I would like to urge all persons with disabilities in their diversity to be united as a team and work together towards the attainment of vision 2030 and the objectives of the National Development Strategy One.

Cde Malinga thanked the President for “making the clarion call to establish an inclusive society which leaves no person and no place behind”.

“His Excellency is a game changer whose vision 2030 and Government policies are anchored on an inclusive society where persons with disabilities fully enjoy their rights and meaningfully participate in the development of their country. Due to his pragmatic leadership we now have farmers, miners, business people, the academia and professionals with disabilities’ excelling in their different disciplines.

So thankful were beneficiaries of the project with Ms Stella Jongwe saying she was also grateful to the mother of the nation for her words of encouragement.

“Today I wish to thank you for the project you have brought us. As people with disabilities we have learnt a lot including standing for ourselves. We have learnt not to rely on everything from our husbands but generate income on our own. We shall not go on roadsides to beg as we spend time focusing on our project. When begging on the roads we are abused by some people who pretend to be seeking to help us,” she said.

Her words dovetailed with the contributions of another beneficiary Mr Gerald Manyere who said: “We are now living knowing that we will be able to do something, thanks to our loving mother. Disability is not inability and therefore we can work for ourselves and not beg from everyone we meet. We shall share the knowledge with those who are not here to ensure everyone benefits.”

Equally ecstatic was Mr Godknows Hove who said the assistance and courses unveiled by the First Lady would certainly transform his life.

“The courses we were taken through are indeed life-changing. Our mother has great love and gave some of us wheelchairs, walking frames and crutches for mobility. We are lucky to have such a mother who has everyone at heart. We also want to thank Amai for giving us food and other goodies,” he said.

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