Tatenda Charamba & Runyararo Muzavazi
Approaching the doorway of a homestead in Norton, a young lady gets into sight. She is wheelchair-bound and controls it, guiding it in our direction. A welcoming smile flashes across her face and one is immediately put at ease entering the house.
The young lady’s name is Talent Muchegwa. She is 25-years-old, armless and has crooked legs, thus she uses a wheelchair for mobility. In addition to her physical disabilities, Talent’s early life was tumultuous. She was born on April 9, 1992 but was abandoned by her father soon after birth. Talent lived in Chitungwiza with her mother till the age of eight when her mother passed on.
She then moved to Norton to live with her aunt, Mrs Ruth Muchegwa. “I have never known my father because he was never in the picture from the day I was born. My mother died when I was still young but I have always had a sense of belonging even after her death because my aunt filled the void,” she said.
Despite the love and affection Talent was offered, she still faced challenges as financial difficulties in her family hindered her educational progress over the years.
“After finishing my Grade Seven at Jairos Jiri, the financial strain our family was experiencing became so acute that I had to spend eight years at home while children of my age were pursuing their dreams,” she explained.
“Eventually I was presented with an opportunity to continue with my education at Danhiko College but they required that I bring a maid along who would assist me because they thought I could not do anything on my own (because of her physical condition).
“This made everything harder because we had no money to hire a maid and it resulted in my stay at home lengthening. “In order to keep myself occupied I would attend various workshops for the disabled where I got to mingle with age mates who had physical challenges,” she said.
Fortunately for Talent, her luck changed when she was afforded an opportunity to take up a programme at Danhiko College. “I managed to secure sponsorship under Econet’s Capernaum Trust scholarship. This enabled me to enrol for a course in Information Technology at Danhiko College.
“My dream is to become a database administrator after finishing this course. I also hope to one day go to university to further my studies,” she said. According to Talent, disability does not mean inability. As her name suggests, she has gifts and despite not being able-bodied she has managed to explore these talents.
“I was taught to play the mbira instrument by a friend of mine and enjoy it a lot. The sound of the mbira serenades my soul taking it to another world. “Besides playing the mbira, I can sing and write songs, particularly jazz and gospel. I look forward to one day record my music and showcase my talent,” she said.
Not having arms hasn’t limited Talent from taking on daily exercises and chores. Using her legs, she is able to thread a needle, sew, cook, dress herself and do her make-up. Her favourite dish is sadza and okra which she often prepares for herself.
Talent prefers wearing trousers and shorts because of their flexibility especially when carrying out chores since she uses her legs to do everything. She highlighted her deep affection for heels because they make it easier for her to move around with her wheelchair. Talent expressed gratitude to her aunt’s family for showering her with love and support which saved her from being alienated by society.
“As I was growing, I never felt lonely or yearned for friendship because my cousins were always there for me, both physically and emotionally. This made me enjoy staying indoors where I was safe from people’s stares that made me feel uncomfortable,” she said. According to Talent, despite the turn in her fortune she still faces daily challenges such as commuting from one place to another.
“I have a hard time when traveling because I am asked to pay an extra fee for my wheelchair. I plead with transport operators to accommodate the disabled by reserving a bay that caters for the disabled.
“Some buildings are also a challenge as they do not have access points for disabled people. These are some of the challenges that need to be addressed,” she explained. She urged other physically challenged people to be proud of who they are and never be ashamed to pursue their dreams because of their conditions.
According to Talent, it is easy for someone with disability to suffer low self-esteem and a lack of confidence which in turn causes them to lose interest in relationships unless it is with someone who has the same challenges. Talent is in three-year-old relationship with someone who is not physically challenged.
Like any other young lady, she intends to get married and start a family of her own. Mrs Muchegwa, her aunt, described her niece as free-spirited girl who is open. “Talent is a cheerful girl who is determined to achieve her goals. She is also caring as she stood by me during the time I fell seriously ill and needed someone to nurse me. She is also open as she does not hide it when something is bothering her.”
She said: “Ever since I started taking care of Talent, there was never a day I had to take her to the hospital because of any disease. When contagious diseases such as flu hit the whole family, she would not fall ill. We are amazed by how this happens,” she said.
According to Mrs Muchegwa, Talent is a social media devotee and stays communicating with people through different platforms.“You will often find her glued to her devices, on Facebook and WhatsApp which have become very convenient communication tools,” she said. Talent has faced challenges but she has remained resolute in her determination to succeed and continues to pursue her goals and dreams.