I am Faimah*! I was born and raised in a slum town in Uganda. I grew up in an extended family according to the community where I used to stay. According to my mother, I was born just like any other baby, a beautiful little girl, strong and healthy. Four years later, however, I became ill with a terrible fever which got me admitted to the hospital for a long period of time. When I was discharged from the hospital, I gradually started losing my capability to hear and by five years old I couldn’t hear anymore till now.
My loss of hearing, according to a medical diagnosis, was associated with the strong medication that was administered to me when I was ill. My mother, having no clue of what exactly could have brought about the tragedy, associated my condition with superstitions. To her, the reliable solution would be to seek spiritual intervention; consulting local medicine men, Church leaders and Moslem clerics, but in vain. However eventually people started discriminating against me. This got so bad that even my mother disappeared from my life. I do not know where she went but I still look for her and love her so much.
As time went on, I had to accept that I was deaf and that it was my new life’s path. A good neighbour tried to enrol me at a local school. At school I wasn’t attentive, as my mind was always thinking about my life and my mother who I loved so much but didn’t know where to find her. As a result of this some bad people started telling the good samaritan that she was wasting her money and time sending me to school. She turned against me and chased me out of her home, not allowing me to play with her children.
I really saw that as an end to my life, having no option but to walk in different towns looking for my mother. But this was all in vain and I ended up on the streets. Someone picked me up and seeing how helpless I was, took me to a nearby police station. By that time I was very hungry and dirty.
Finding a home
Later I was taken to a home called S.A.L.V.E. International where I felt at home even whilst I was still thinking about my mother. S.A.L.V.E. showed me love and care and I am happy to be loved. As time went on, I got used to other children and played with them. It was a challenge because I didn’t know how to communicate well with them, but I am happy they understood me and accepted my disability. With the S.A.L.V.E. staff we tried to trace my mother and relatives but unfortunately we have not yet found them.
One day my one of the staff members, Solomon, explained he was taking me somewhere. I was a little worried that maybe was going to be taken somewhere and left there. Since most of my friends had been taken to their relatives, they were lucky they had a place to call home and a mother. Little did I know that uncle Solo was taking me to a school where my friends with the same disability were. I was so happy to reach the school seeing other children with the same disability as me. Since then, I have learnt some sign language and I also got the chance to meet other deaf children. As a community we had a common language, shared values, norms, and interests, and for once, I don’t feel alone.
However, growing up as a person with a disability was a hurdle: people called me names like “Kasiru,” meaning a stupid person. Several times, I was denied the opportunity to participate in some activities and to express myself because of being deaf. I also had challenges accessing day-to-day information, which did not only limit my access to useful knowledge but also affected my performance in knowing certain things in life. As time went on, however, I noticed I was not the only person facing these challenges; other girls with disabilities were facing even worse. I came to learn of many girls with disabilities who were sexually abused; denied education; denied basic needs; their rights abused as some people would take them to be even associated with a curse and bad luck in a community.
I feel blessed being in the safe hands of S.A.L.V.E., especially as a person with a disability and I am happy to be in school.
*names are changed in line with our Child Protection Policy