With a tip from a friend, I get to learn about Annet Nayiga, 39,, a woman with no hands but doesn’t beg. Yes! I took it to be a cheap joke, not until I went to meet her in Makindye Division, Kizungu Corridor, a Kampala suburb.
She is the eldest child in a family of seven. She was born in Bukunyu village, in Masaka. Unlike her siblings; she is the only one who is “disabled”. She has no hands; and makes ends meet with her foot. To Nayiga, calling her disabled is an insult, because she can meet all personal needs, apart from fetching water.
From cooking, washing, weaving, knitting, writing among others, Nayiga explained to The Sunrise that she has never been miserable given her body structure; and just like any other person, she can meet all her basic responsibilities.
Strong from the Start
Nayiga is the daughter to the late Henry Muwonge and Annet Nakabuubi of Masaka District in Central Uganda. Her father never disowned her because of her disability. He strongly protected her from any kind of abuse that all her younger siblings would want to heap on her, hardly addressing her by name.
Nayiga feels she got her spiritual strength from her mother, who reportedly refused to surrender her to charity organizations which had begged to take her when she was still young.”My mother told me that when she gave birth to me at Entebbe Hospital, several charities and White people asked to take me on and raise me, but she refused, given the fact that I was a baby girl and I was her first child,” Nayiga says.
Nayiga who couldn’t attend school due to distance and lack of a wheel chair took no chances of losing out on education. She kept copying what her siblings were doing as home-work. Eventually, she learnt to read and write Luganda and a smattering of English.”I can perfectly write Luganda and read some English, though I never attended any classroom,” says Nayiga.
Making Money with A Foot
The word of God says in the Bible that “whatever you put your hand to will prosper” but Nayiga is redefining that scriptures by getting blessed by her foot, instead. She told this paper that she makes around $100 (350,000 Uganda shillings)/ every month, selling mats she makes with her foot.
At her retail workshop in Makindye, she explains that she never attended any vocational school to acquire skills either, but she learned from her village friends and her mother, who used to make baskets, mats and other homemade crafts.
She explained that her blessings were sparked by a Japanese tourist who picked her from her home village in Masaka and brought her to Kampala. The Japanese initially paid her house rent and catered for her start-up capital.
“The Japanese asked to help me and I told him blessings are always in the City, so he helped to bring me to Kampala, catered for my rent and paid school dues for my older children,” Nayiga adds.
Speaking of Motherhood
Nayiga was initiated to sexual life at the age of 18 by her friends who used to tell her how to go about sex. She said that she was so terrified about it for she had never neither attended school, where children talk about it, nor did her mother or aunties indicate it to her as per the cultural norms.
Nayiga explains that she became pregnant but no one could notice given her size and stature. She later gave birth to a bouncing baby boy. She delivered at home; and she also says that she has never delivered in any hospital for her subsequent pregnancies.
Nayiga revealed that her she has begotten her five children with two men, explaining that she was propelled to dump his first husband after discovering that he was cheating on her.”He never told me that he had another woman; and I was so shocked that he was lying to me, so I had to let things go and I moved on,” Nayiga says.
Keeping Dreams Alive
That humanity is driven by desires and dreams does not exclude Nayiga. Her ambitions at heart is that she would land a “jackpot” that will satisfy all her dreams and ambitions. Learning the English language has always been her ambition; and that at 39, she still thirsts to enter a classroom to acquire a few skills in the Queen’s English.
She explains that she is exploring and exploiting all loopholes to get school fees so that she can join Adult Education at a top language centre. She adds that her desire to learn English is associated to her dream of travelling to the Western world for a visit or for shopping.
More so, is Nayiga’s ambition to represent Persons with Disablities (PWDs) in Parliament, saying that for years the PWDs haven’t benefited from their parliamentary representatives. For Nayiga thinks she give hope to PWDs because she lives with a serious disability which you don’t need to explain to people.
She also castigates renting as the most disappointing challenge of her life that she repeatedly says that she admires being housed in a grass thatched house so long as she does not have to pay rent. “All my savings evaporate in paying rent and school fees. “Oh! God, I admire a free house, be it grass thatched,” Nayiga lamented
Besides knitting, weaving and making crafts, Nayiga is an upcoming musical sensation, with a breathtaking hit, “Katonda Agera”, literally meaning, God is the one responsible for fate, The song narrates Nayiga’s Life, inspiring others and castigating people who don’t want to work.
She believes she can do more in music than in crafts and is currently working on a new song which will be recorded soon. She is in the process of raising money for a recording studio.
Nayiga feels challenged that people take her for granted; she feels a burden on her public appearance that people feel pity for her and others give her coins at the road sides thinking she is a typical beggar, a gesture she avidly resents.
Her 16 year-old daughter, Oliver Nakabira, who was forced to cut short formal school due to lack of fees and joined saloon apprentice, says she feels hurt when her mother is belittled, yet she is better than many people.”She is the best mother in the world, and she is our hope. She is better than many,” mothers Nakabira adds.
The South African Noble laureate, Bishop Desmond Tutu, asserted: “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” Annet Nayiga is a definition of that endless hope and a symbol of inspiration against all that darkness.