Issue 2, November 2009
Published by African Union of the Blind (AFUB) Union Africaine des Aveugles (UAFA)
North Airport Road Embakasi
P. O. Box 72872 – 00200
Publication, translation and distribution of this issue have been made possible by the financial support of Sightsavers International. Its content is purely a collective voice of individual blind and partially sighted youth in Africa, together with their supporters around the world.
Munyaratsi Musinze shares her experience of being the first blind female radio presenter in Malawi __________5
“We are not yet on the same wavelength when it comes to mainstreaming,” said Paul Mugambi of Handicap
International- KENYA _________________________ 11
Soap Trading: An Unchartered Land? _____________ 14
The Legacy of the KDDP on Uganda National Association of the Blind (UNAB) __________________________ 16
Visually Impaired Moroccans and the world of the Martial Arts _________________________________ 19
Light News _________________________________ 21
The Blind Cracking Jokes ______________________ 23
Announcements _____________________________ 25
1. The IDP _______________________________ 25
2. World Braille Foundation __________________ 26
The protagonists of this issue of Youth Beat best illustrate that disability is not inability. Indeed, these young change makers have, each in their own way and from a different angle, translated into action the messages that disability activists strive hard to propagate.
These catalysts of change like Munyaratsi, a self-assertive young woman who became the first visually impaired female radio presenter in Malawi, or the three Moroccan visually impaired youth who, against all odds, succeeded in getting the black belt in Aikido, or the young Ronald Luyima in Uganda who has demonstrated heigh quality managerial skills in the coordination of the AFUB‟s Knowledge on
Democracy and Development Project for three years, and the list is far from being exhaustive in order for you to leaf through and explore our equally inspiring change makers.
While preparing this issue for publication, I came across an insightful folk tale, which speaks to the choices in life that our protagonists have made in the face of the challenges that would at first have appeared to be undefeatable. It is the story of a young girl who lost faith in change and hope in life, and was on the verge of collapse. Her mother then taught her an invaluable lesson.
She placed three pots, each filled with water, on a high fire. On the first, she put a carrot, on the second, an egg, and on the third, ground coffee beans. After boiling for quite some time, the young girl was asked to describe the changes: the carrot became very soft; the egg became hard; on tasting
the rich aroma of the boiled ground coffee beans, the daughter asked for explanation.
These three objects faced the same adversity: boiling water on a high fire, the mother explained. However, each reacted in a different way. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting only to become weak after being subjected to the boiling water. The egg, protected by its outer shell, was hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique –they had
changed the water with a rich texture and a nice aroma. When adversity knocks on our door, how do we respond? Do we give in the face of ordeals like the carrot? Do we change our positive outlook to life and our fluid spirit with a hardened heart? Or do we strive to change positively the very adverse circumstances into great achievements, like ground coffee beans? Our change makers portrayed in this issue have opted for the third choice, and so should all young visually impaired in our continent.
(By Nadia Gouy), Editor)
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Munyaratsi Musinze shares her experience of being the first blind female radio presenter in Malawi
Q: Thank you for accepting to share your experience and thoughts with the youth of Africa. We would like to know how this dream of becoming a radio presenter grew and became a reality.
-Since secondary school, I used to tell my friends that I would like to be a radio presenter. Some of them recommended that I should explore opportunities of working for the Christian radio in Malawi. When I finished secondary school, I started writing Christian short stories, which were actually broadcasted once a week. I was the only blind person in the group; so, they were very impressed with how I was presenting my stories because I was always reading them very fluently and they did not have to edit much. After recording the weekly program, I would make sure to listen to the recorded story. Though my voice sounded rather babyish, I thought I had an engaging manner of presenting. I grew more convinced to pursue my dream, but I did not know how. A couple of years later, one of my secondary school friends who was working at the Malawi broadcasting corporation - the state-owned broadcasting station, suggested that I apply to be a presenter of the program "Greetings by Braille" (that‟s the program I am
currently presenting and which is a program that offers visually impaired listeners the opportunity to have their greeting letters read out), as the person who was then the presenter had resigned.
Q: Would you tell us more about the interviewing process? Many of our young readers might be wondering how you were able to be offered the job especially that the producer of the
program had interviewed quite a few applicants as you mentioned.
-At first, I did not expect that I would be short listed for an interview. I had applied and had not received any reply until one day I received a call from my friend, informing me that the producer wanted to interview me the following day. It was conducted by two persons, a sound engineer and a manager. I was given a set of Braille letters, which were kept at the library of Malawi Broadcasting Corporation. He asked me to present the program: open the program, read the letters, choose musical breaks, and do the closing. I was not given any hints and had to try to do it in a professional way.
Q: How did you feel when you were doing it for the first time?
-Honestly, I was very nervous because although I had the experience of recording my short stories at the Christian Radio station, the thought of being interviewed in a larger state-owned broadcasting corporation by more than one person made my heart literally throb. Other employees were actually watching as they had not seen a blind person reading Braille. The program was presented by a visually impaired, but for many of them, the interview was an opportunity to discover this process. Most MBC presenters and some reporters wanted to see what Braille was and how people read it. After the auditions, I was taken to the announcers department, a space where all the announcers meet together after finishing their programs. The person auditioning me asked me what my impression was. I lowered my head, and then he told me that I would start presenting the program the following week.
Q: Did you face any problems in the beginning?
-I remember that in the first few months, many listeners did not like my program especially sighted people. They felt that I was a slow reader; nor did I manage to come across as a lively
presenter. However, within a period of two months, I made such a significant progress that my producer decided to give me the chance to do a live program even before the management decided so.
Q: What is the level of interaction between you and the staff? Do you feel that you are a member of the team although you are a part-time presenter?
-The level of interaction is very good; they actually even allow me to be there when they are editing the program. I also remember that there was one engineer who had just been employed and he had never seen someone reading Braille; so, he opted to record my program. Ever since, he would insist to record the program. I felt really honored to find someone who could really volunteer to actually record the program. He was particular about the quality of the voice and would make sure that the program was presented nicely from start to finish. He really appreciated what Braille entailed and how a visually impaired person would have difficulty reading erased dots. Maintaining good relationships with everyone helped me become part of the team, with everyone willing to help me and listen to my suggestions or changes that I might wish to make in the programs.
Q: That‟s great. What feedback do you get from your visually impaired fellows, particularly as an active member of the Malawi Union of the Blind?
A greeting by Braille is a program that is broadcast in both the local language and English. While I present the English version, another visually impaired person presents the Chichewa version. Judging from the feedback of my visually impaired friends and acquaintances, it seems that my program is more popular than the one in Chichewa. People appreciate my style, choice of songs, and how I make sure to do justice to every letter.
Q: Munyaratsi as the acting youth Chairperson of Malawi Union of the Blind (MUB), can you tell us how your Involvement with MUB started and how it progressed over time?
-Although I registered in 2001 as a result of an extensive recruitment campaign, I was not Very active as I was still in school. On finishing school, the idea of establishing a youth wing within MUB started to take shape, with Mr. Kumwenda suggesting my involvement in the committee. The youth wing was launched. We now had to set up a committee. I did not want to run for elections, but another blind youth nominated me for the position of Vice Chairperson. I competed with a young man for the position of the Vice-Chairperson and won. After that in 2006, I was reelected. I had attended the Knowledge on Democracy and Development project in South Africa. My participation along with two other young Malawians was greatly appreciated, and as a result we were included in the Africa Visually Impaired Youth Empowerment project (AVIYEP). It made me happy to know that I was one of the people who contributed to this achievement. Apart from that, I‟ve traveled to Kenya where we had an HIV&AIDS Peer
Education Training as a resource person by AFUB. I am glad to be among few visually impaired people in Malawi who went outside the country and represented MUB. I have become a more effective public speaker. It has also made me shape my leadership skills.
Q: Now that you are preparing for another election campaign, do you intend to run for the position of the youth Chairperson?
I know that AFUB encourages especially young women to run for such positions, but I still think that it is a matter of looking into where I can be more useful. I might run for elections once again and all will depend on the results.
Q: What do you envision for the Malawi union of the Blind Youth Wing?
-I would like to see the youth wing effectively addressing the school dropout among visually impaired students. A growing number of visually impaired students drop out of school because of different reasons. Yet, I believe that most of them do so because they do not know where to go or who to talk to. I would like to see them being mentored, knowing where to go to so that in at least 10 years from now or 15 years, we should be talking of more young students accessing higher education.
Q: Do you see yourself as a role model for other young visually impaired persons who wish to explore various career opportunities other than teaching and other typical jobs for the visually impaired?
-Definitely. The feedback I get from my interactions with young visually impaired Malawians is a growing interest and confidence in pursuing new career opportunities and confidence in our potential.
Q: What advice would you have for our young readers?
-I would advise them to work very hard at school. We all face different problems at school as visually impaired students –
starting from lack of tuition fees to lack of accessible materials, but we should not give up. I am an example. My parents died when I was 14 years Old. My grandparents were reluctant to pay my tuition fees. For them, a blind woman will not be of help, but now I am actually supporting my family with the money I earn. Many of us could face similar problems; let us not give up; let us write to AFUB. They may not give us money, but they will make sure to put you in touch with someone who could be of help. To all young readers, let us work hard and try to communicate our Problems -there will definitely be a helping hand.
Q: What are your future personal plans?
-My future personal plan is to have training in mass communication. I am planning to resume my education and improve my communication skills as a professional radio presenter.
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