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LIVING WITH DISABILITY: HILDA MULENGA LUNGU

BY RABECCA GOMBE

HUSTLING in order to get a living is important and in this article, we learn from Hilda Mulenga Lungu, a woman living with disability on how she juggles different activities in order to ensure that her family is taken care of.

Question: Thank you for joining us and please let us start by learning more about you. Tell her us your name and how do you start your day.

Answer: Thank you for this opportunity. I am Hilda Mulenga Lungu (Mrs) and I am a designer tailor by profession .

Question: Tell us a bit about how your day starts and what you do when you are not home. How do you manage?

Answer: As a disabled person and especially when you reach 50 years of age, our life becomes a bit harder. So in the morning it’s a bit difficult. You have to touch here and there just to balance things. I normally make breakfast and after eating, my husband and I sit on our machines and start sewing.

Question: Is this machine at home or you are renting somewhere?

Answer: In the past, we used to work from Lotus House but with the advent of covid, we shift and now work exclusively from home.

Question: Before we delve more into your life, can you tell us how you started tailoring, was it a life goal or you went to school somewhere to learn?

Answer: There was an organization called Zambia Association for the Physically Handicapped, and we were the first trainees. We also had Norwegians training us and after graduating, they gave us machines to work independently.

Question: In business it takes time to get established. How did you start and even get clients for your business?

Answer: The biggest challenge in getting clients comes when you don’t have a fixed trading area like in the past. Now if you have a machine and people passing by can see that you are sewing clothes, they will be interested. People will know that there are tailors and sometimes we put a simple poster to show that there is a tailor. People passing in the street can see that there is a tailor.

Question: we saw a beautiful dress. Is it you who did the dress?

Answer: Yes, it is mean.

Question: Oh wow. It means you have gone international. You said you prepare breakfast in the morning. What are some of the challenges you face before you cook?

Answer: Challenges are many because of walking problems. At home, I would just crawl but if I am going somewhere, I get a walking stick. There are challenges especially with the way the economy. You just wonder where you would start from. The tailoring business has competition and finding a customer is not easy. It’s not always that you wake up and start cooking, sometimes you just think about what you will do on that day to earn a living. Some of the challenges include looking after children and to ensure that they go to school. But to be truth, daily living for people with disability is tough. When you wake up you don’t even know where to start.

Question: Many people don’t understand how it is to live with a disability, how are you perceived in your area?

Answer: It is difficult to mix with people who are not disabled. But if you as a person with a disability is ready to mix with those and you apply yourself, you will find that you will even do better than them. They will even respect you. Personally I have been representing women’s groups in different clubs. And this is not because there are no able bodied persons, no. People just call me to go and represent them.

The challenging of competing with persons without disability comes in when you have to access offices and getting business. The people in offices prefer to see the other persons before dealing with those of us with disabilities. This is where we find real challenges. Hustling is definitely a challenge but in communities we are well understood.

Question: You said you are the chairlady and you are also a tailor and mother and wife. How do you balance all these roles?

Answer: I manage because as chairlady, our organization has specific days when we meet. There is a building former president Kenneth Kaunda gave us. We also encourage each other to ensure that we do not neglect our homes. We also have contributions from people using the building for different activities like kitchen parties or weddings, we use this money to prop up our businesses.

Question: How do you deal with people who do not understand how to work alongside persons with disabilities?

Answer: We manage to convince them. I joined Zambia Association for Persons with Disabilities when I was 18 years and I have learnt how to help people. Some families would want to hide a child with a disability. But we show them this is also a person and should be allowed to enjoy their rights. We encourage families not to hide children with disabilities. We used to take the children to Arthur Davison hospital until they are healed. It is important for children to mix. No one should look down on other person. A person with disability can also have good ideas.

Question: There are many organisations in Zambia for people with disabilities, but what do you think should be done to do things differently for people with disabilities?

Answer: we have an organization called Zambia Association of Women with Disabilities and its more than 20 years but the problem is that all successful government have been ignoring us. The MMD used to fund the organization and we were able to assist disabled women with problems. These used to be loans not free money. From that time, nothing has been happening and we even fail to participate in womens day. This platform is important and I want to appeal to the First Lady, Madam Mutinta Hichilema who refused to start an organization but opted to work with existing ones, if she can help. We can meet her so that we tell her about our challenges. Once we are empowered, our problems will be eased. Zambia Agency for persons with Disabilities can not manage to help everyone. Not everyone can be assisted.

We do not get assistance and we only see such things on TV, but us the disabled we do not get any assistance. If the agency was working, we would not be going to the office to close doors. I appeal to Madam Mutinta to help the women living with disabilities. We need help. We need empowerment because even they teach you how to survive, how can you survive without empowerment.

Question : what are your closing remarks and encouragement to other people living with disability ?

Answer : This organization for women with disabilities and other organisations once they are empowered, it is easy to talk to them and empower them. Government should empower this organisations so that we can also help other disabled women. Because what help am I going to offer my friend with disability if there is no empowerment. How will we ask our friends to leave the street and stop begging when there is no empowerment. This cash transfer, yes, it helps us but its not enough. K400 and K800 for 2 months is just enough to buy mealie meal and its down. People in offices hide and even minister when they hear from their secretaries that there are disabled people in the office, they hide. Why? Because they think we are there to beg. They donot know how we can be assisted. There are more women than men so when you empower women, you empower the nation.

Our mother, Madam Mutinta please come and help us. Millennium TV will show you where are.

This program is supported by WAN-IFRA WOMEN IN NEWS but the views expressed here do not reflect the views of WAN IFRA WOMEN IN NEWS

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