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Nafisa Khanbhai – From fighting disability to helping others

If you feel disability is a sign of weakness, think again!

Nafisa Khanbhai, from Mombasa, Kenya is breaking all the preconceptions about disabilities, as she ascends her wheelchair every morning with a motive to make the world a better place for the ones trying hard to make a name for themselves, despite their physical disabilities and the stigma attached.

SWEA got in touch with Nafisa Khanbhai to know about her exceptional story and how she got the idea to start something so remarkable with Dear Diary Kenya Initiative.

Scroll down to read our one-on-one interview with the Super Woman herself to know more about her journey so far.

SWEA: Hello Nafisa! Firstly, thank you for taking out time from your busy schedule to be featured on the SWEA group and blog page. Moving on to our first question, we would like to know a little about Spinda Bifida, the condition that you suffer from.

Nafisa Khanbhai: I was born with a crack in my spine just above the hip whereby, in that specific spot there was no skin. Immediately had to be operated and below that point I lost the ability to walk. I also was wearing nappies up to the age of 9 years when my kidneys were infected and had to go through a surgery from the age of 9. To date and for lifetime, I am wearing a urine bag on the right side of my stomach. I also got my periods when I was just 6 years of age.

SWEA: Tell us a little about Dear Diary Kenya Initiative and how was it started.

Nafisa: Dear Diary was started in the year 2006 as a one hour stage drama. The concept was to sensitize people that disability is not inability we too need to live life to the full we need all the facilities that every human has a right to. I am glad that I got a positive response after the first show. A total of seven shows were staged out of this. Two of them were performed in Nairobi in the year 2009.

SWEA: How did a stage show turn into a full-fledged charity initiative for the disabled?

Nafisa:  It was in 2011 Dear Diary Initiatives Kenya was born again as an organization. I was encouraged by Hillary Namanje to start an organization and the bylaws were prepared by Nolly Wilson. We saw the need of the challenged people and the basic requirements to help them overcome challenges.

SWEA: What are some of the odds that you come to face frequently while managing a successful initiative for the disabled in Kenya, and how do you try to keep yourself motivated?

Nafisa: Obstacles have been there and they will continue to be. Over the years I have faced challenges and this is mainly due to my own disability and my health in general. But when I wake up each morning I motivate myself by saying that someone out there needs me, that someone is more helpless than I am. When I do something for someone that is my motivation. When I am able to make someone smile it motivates me. My greatest challenge is how people look at me, and think about me, and how to overcome that.

SWEA: While working for Dear Diary Kenya Initiative, was there any story that deeply touched you and you would like to share with the Super Women of East Africa?

Nafisa: The story that touched me is of a disabled lady I met in Nairobi in 2007. When she was born she was taken as a curse in the community instead of being taken to medical institutes to be given the right medical care she was taken to witchcrafts. She grew up and met a man that loved her, married her but after two kids left her to marry another one. After facing all these challenges she got a job in a bank and today, the community that treated her as a curse is proud of her. I don’t know if she is still in Nairobi or not.

SWEA: What project are you currently working on for the Dear Diary Kenya Initiative for the future?

Nafisa: Currently I am working on a project located in Kaloleni we as an organization are building an orphanage using plastic bottles to make the walls. The thought behind this is to educate the local people on the use of bottles and a fairly cheaper way of building houses.

SWEA: Any message for the Super Women struggling with disabilities or taking care of a loved one suffering from any kind of physical disabilities?

Nafisa: The only message I can give to all the women out there is that disability is not inability take it positively live with it in a positive way and take each day as it comes.

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