Life’s common law is one of strife. But the degree of struggle varies between people. Some lose loved ones, others welter in poverty, others fall severely ill and become afflicted with debilitating physical conditions and some suffer from mental illnesses that eat away at their sanity. From the callow age of five, Fatuma Said Juma was bereft of her legs but blessed with a tenacious will. Looking back, Juma believes she suffered from the paralyzing viral disease known as polio. In addition to this misfortune, Juma lost her parents early on. Conditions were beyond straitened for her and her family, but this solidified her character.
Clouds of a grim future of living with disability hovered above her but Juma’s nerves were steady. This unflinching desire to soldier on despite all odds being against her combined with a polished and furnished will to live have brought her this far. She taught herself how to sew and resorted to tailoring clothes for the better part of her life. With the whirring and clanking sewing machine as her trusty means of production, Juma managed to make a humble living. Unable to use her legs, Juma used a mortar to sew and when she progressed, she began using an electric-powered machine.
However, tailoring became unsustainable when her younger sister, Nura, died of depression leaving behind destitute children. What started out as a moral duty to raise and protect her nephews and nieces morphed into a pleasure she relished. But this pleasure was not free from hurdles. Raising these children required adequate resources she did not have. But she had one thing: unfaltering faith. “I said something that shocked me. Praise be to God. God is great. ‘You’ve taken away the strong one and left me. You’ll give me the ability,’ and I managed. My tears are out of love for God, they are not out of anger. They are out of love for God,” she said with a lump in her throat and a soul-stirring quiver in her voice.
Her heart is filled with a devotion to a Deity she believes never departs her, never forsakes her, and never leaves her to her own survival mechanisms. With this credence in God, she has conquered life’s steep and rocky roads. While conditions remain difficult for her, Juma clings to a hope that life will get better for her and her dependents. #wazeewakenya