“It belongs to women. In Africa, when there is disability, it belongs to women.”
This is what one of the pastors told Meritt, Andrew and I when we visited the BCC center at her parish. In our program in Tanzania, more than one third of the children and young adults who attend our centers live solely with their mothers. For the remaining two thirds of our center clients, often their mother is still their primary caregiver even if they live with both parents.
Mothers are the backbone, heart, and soul of BCC. Many of the staff who work in our centers are mothers of children with disabilities who attend the centers. BCC has the privilege of supporting mothers, and therefore strengthening the entire family, through employment in the centers, microloans and a sewing cooperative.
Levina Maanga’s mother is a recipient of one of these microloans. Levina is the only girl at our center in Rau KDC. Recently we highlighted Levina’s participation in the Kilimanjaro Marathon 5K and her bold and determined spirit. It is not a mystery where she learned her fortitude. Levina’s mother is the sole supporter of her family. She was able to start a business through her microloan from BCC and sells clothes and shoes at a local market, earning approximately $1 per day to feed herself and her two children. It is her dream for Levina to inherit her business, and when Levina is not at the center, often she will accompany her mother to the market to learn how to run the business. When asked what she enjoys doing most with her mother, Levina replies that she likes selling clothes at the market because she wants to be a businesswoman, just like her mom.
Levina’s mother is determined to raise a strong, independent woman. Through the guidance of BCC staff and her mother, Levina is now able to wash her own clothes, garden, and help her mother clean the house. The pair also feeds their chickens and cooks together. Levina has taken her farming and gardening skills learned through BCC’s young adult program and used them to start her own garden at home, which she and her mother weed together.
When speaking about how proud she is of her daughter, Levina’s mother says, “I am proud of the way Levina is. She’s ready to learn new things every day and she’s proud to learn new things. She’s not one to say, ‘No, I’m not able to fetch water.’ She tried and now she’s able to go and fetch water. She has improved and I am proud of her.”
It is said that women hold up half the sky, but when it comes to disability in Tanzania, women often hold up the whole sky. The title of this post, “Nani kama mama,” is a Swahili saying that means nobody can compare to mom. Thank you to all of the mothers who provide incomparable love and support to sons and daughters with and without disabilities, and thank you to the mothers who touch the lives of the children and young adults we serve at BCC every day. Our sky would fall without you.
By Alex Bailey