This International Women’s Day (IWD) wheelchair bound  farmer, Lydia Nemafhohoni, wants other disabled women to know they can break the biases they face.  

Left paralysed by a bout of  childhood polio, she fights a double bias: for being disabled and for being a woman. Now she’s on a mission to help other disabled women feel empowered instead of “feeling sorry for themselves”.

Giving preference to disabled people

Nemafhohoni is the chairperson of a community farming project called Konanani Disabled People Primary Agricultural Co-operative. She runs a successful vegetable farm and a poultry project, which was established in 2004. The project currently has 11 full-time workers, seven of whom are living with various disabilities.

“We currently plough various types of vegetables such as mealies, beetroot, carrots, cabbages and others, which we sell to our local communities. We are trying by all means to be as independent as fully abled people,” she said.

The single mother of three believes people living with disabilities can achieve anything they want to. “Just because I’m in a wheelchair, I’m always offered handouts, but I believe that we all have to work for our own money. I have been doing all I can to ensure that I earn an income, and to not depend on anyone,” said Nemafhohoni.

She asserts that most don’t want to rely on the disability grant, and just need ‘support and encouragement to be empowered and independent.’ They also need skills training to start their own businesses. 

Share the knowledge

Nemafhohoni saw an opportunity in farming and grasped it. Now she wants to teach other women living with disabilities how to become small scale farmers. “Most people, especially the youth, are not interested in venturing into it. If more disabled people  especially women, are encouraged to take up farming as a career, we can reduce the unemployment gap among disabled people,” she said.

She’s also made it her mission to fight stigma and discrimination, saying ‘it’s painful to see disabled people prevented from achieving their dreams’, due to community shame. 

“We still have people, especially parents, who decide to hide their disabled children from the public.  By doing so they are violating their rights. Disabled people deserve to be given opportunities like everyone else”, she said. – Health-e News