Evita lives with her three children in the rural village of Kinangali, in the Manyoni district. It’s the hottest, most arid and impoverished region of Tanzania. The severe conditions have robbed people of their self-worth and instilled an attitude of intense dependency. Poverty is widespread.
At 68 years old, Evita wanted to be able to contribute meaningfully to the household income and have some independence. However, the way she was perceived by those around her undermined her sense of resilience and self-worth. For many people like Evita, the most debilitating part of having a disability is the way they are viewed and treated by society.
When she was just 27, Evita had to have her right leg amputated after a life-threatening cow kick. She recalls, “I was really devastated and unable to sleep for a whole week when I was told that my leg was going to be cut off.” Evita was fitted with an artificial leg by a catholic mission and although it took a long time to accept and adjust to this new life, she gradually got used to it.
A few years later Evita’s husband, unable to cope with the financial stress they were under, abandoned his family. Left to shoulder the burden alone, Evita says, “It was such a dark moment again because life became more difficult and my future was doomed due to numerous challenges in a family in maintaining our household.” External factors like rainfall shortages and soil infertility determined how much food the family would harvest, their only source of income.
People with disabilities are among the poorest of the poor worldwide. Women are particularly vulnerable because they are discriminated against doubly as a result of their gender. For many people like Evita, there doesn’t seem to be any way to overcome the significant challenges facing them, especially if the wider community treats them as less capable and less important because of their poverty or disability.