SENTENCED BEFORE TRIAL – The Fate of Disabled Persons.

I am Atenge Christine, the mother of a four-year old Nayiga Daniella Benita. I am twenty-four years old and my daughter is disabled. She is blind, deaf, and cannot talk or sit. She cannot feed on her own and gets convulsions at least once every week. Her father had abandoned us as soon as he heard I was pregnant.
It took me four painful days to finally give birth to her, four years ago. I was merely in senior three, before I had dropped out of school prior to labor. Unable to take care of myself and my unborn child, my sister found me a job as a house help. For eight months, I merely stayed healthy. I also started washing people’s clothes in order to earn enough money to use during labor.

Born extremely tired, my daughter couldn’t breastfeed for about two weeks. I painfully watched on as the doctors injected her with glucose. The stigma I had faced at school, working extra hours while pregnant and now an unhealthy baby made me hate myself and her. I neither had money to pay for the oxygen nor keep her on it and it was two weeks already! I was on the brink of giving up when she was finally able to breast feed. Her father shockingly showed up two days prior to her discharge. I think apart of him couldn’t let him sleep.

He never worked because he was lazy. He despised all the work available. In my unhealthy state, I had to resume my work of washing clothes. I started a small shop of groceries where sold tomatoes, onions, sugarcanes and other small vegetables. One day, my father ran into me at my shop. I felt my heart in my belly when our eyes met. Everything around us paused so you could hear the stones rubbing against the shoes of passersby. My conscience held my legs still because I was pregnant when I last saw him. Yet here he was, before me, in his real flesh. He quarreled but he asked to come back home and continue with my studies which I did.
Back at school, my daughter was now five months old while I was in my senior four. I used to rush back home to breastfeed her. My daughter was six months old when she first fell terribly ill. Sometimes I wish I had known this at childbirth! My inexperience with children, as well as naivety had given way. She usually fell sick but I thought that Nayiga’s condition was normal for babies. After all, children often fall sick. It didn’t cross my mind that she needed urgent medical attention. One afternoon, while I walked with my child, I was directed by a certain lady to Mrs. Nankabirwa Betty Muwanga, the founder of Support Disabled Children Ggaba and a partner to Creative Youth Agency to help treat my baby. While at Support Disabled Children, I was counselled first and later I learned to love my child. The organizations teach us to love our children because most of us think they will love them for us. They render a helping hand hence we retain our roles as parents.
Through Creative Youth Agency I learn to save and how to make craft bags. They have given me the capital to start making my own which they buy and save some of the money for my daughter’s healthcare.

I now have a family and my daughter’s convulsions no longer come as often. Sometimes I am overjoyed but I suddenly remember the children like my Nayiga out there. Most of them are locked up and segregated. Their parents don’t take them along while visiting friends. They are left at home and aren’t allowed to play with children in the neighborhood. Shockingly, “normal” children have almost the resources available while these ones go without basic rights like education. They also have to battle stigma. Witchcraft isn’t medicine but most people are made to believe it is, often lied to by the native doctors that their children were twins but the other child was something else such as a bone. I have come to appreciate that love is the most important part of medication. I never thought I would ever see my daughter smile. Although I encourage parents like me to take their children to hospital, I have to advise them to love them. These people understand and can tell everything around them. It impacts them one way or another. Don’t be mean to them, encourage them and enjoy all aspects of life with them. People don’t have to be perfect to be amazing. I am grateful to Ms. Specy and Mrs. Nankabirwa for showing me this. We need to be more understanding to one another. Nayiga is deaf but she is able to react whenever I call her. That didn’t happen until I started loving her. She also draws and paints while some of her friends weave. This shows that they too have talents. She smiles more often too. What started out to be a burden is now my only piece of joy. The fate of the disabled can still be altered to a nicer one, only if they are not sentenced before trial.