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Chada Defies The Odds
Gweru Today

Chada Defies the Odds

Jonathan Chada, 47, sits on the pavement in front of Nyaningwe Wholesale in Gweru, Zimbabwe’s third-largest city, crafting and repairing worn-out wares. Born with multiple disabilities, he knits baskets and bathroom sets, chairs and stretcher beds in order to earn a living. Unable to sit upright, he holds plastic soft scrappers between his teeth and the toes of the left foot while he sew and knits with the fingers of his right hand, using a piece of thick wire as a needle.

Chada’s self-taught artistic talent shows highest degree of workmanship in his finished products of stretcher beds, sofas, baskets, mates and folding chairs finished sets – a cistern covers, toilet bowl and three mats made from wool and old multi-coloured bed mates that once tightly held goods from delivery vehicles.

Chada says that doctors attributed his disabilities to poor maternal health care during his mother’s pregnancy. Throughout his difficult childhood, the clear spoken Chada lacked even the most basic survival skills, like the ability to feed himself or easily move about unaided. On top of physical challenges, some members of the community view disability as a curse in Gweru.

“I lost my sight when I was only 3 years old after suffering from measles. Medical specialists failed to cure. I went to secondary where I unsuccessfully set for Ordinary level examinations at Jairos Jiri Naran Center in Kadoma, that was after completing primary school level at Muwunga School in Gweru,” Chada says in the native Shona language.

He grew up in Gutu, the third largest district in Masvingo Province in the southern Zimbabwe, where he says that stigma against disability is rife.

In his rural area especially in Magaya village, he says many residents lack any understanding of the causes of disability, associating it instead with witchcraft, punishment by ancestral or evil spirits or even promiscuity by the mother during pregnancy.

But Chada says that the social exclusion was a blessing in disguise, as the social welfare got hold of him and catered for his academic costs.

The artistic genius spent time assisting his uncle, Amiyasi Madangwa to accomplish his basic arts and craft work where he acquired the skills.

Today Chada has already mastered how to get down from it without help.

He sells wares for between $7 and $30 per set. Some days he manages to sell two or four sets.

“Usually when I finish a set, it will already be booked,” he says. “So how much money I make depends on how many sets I can knit or repair in a day. I appeal to the corporate world to assist me acquire machinery which can easy my job. It is sold at R3 000 in Pretoria, South Africa.”.

The social stigma attached to disabilities has led to his failure to acquire employment opportunities since it is difficult for disabled people to be employed in Zimbabwe. Limited access to education also has health repercussions for the disabled, such as lack of information on HIV and AIDS.

It is high time for the Government to establish new initiatives to boost special education. Before donors pulled out of Zimbabwe, non-governmental organizations used to train disabled people in income-generating projects such as art to enable them to support themselves and their families.

About 1.5 million people are living with disabilities in Zimbabwe. Only two percent of the disabled are formally employed, according to 2012 figures from the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStats). About 64 percent are said to be employed in the informal sector. Many of them survive on begging. An additional 8 percent are self-employed, and 29 percent are engaged in sustainable farming activities.

Belinda Musesemwa, the Midlands Province chairperson for National Association of Blind people in Gweru, a group that strives to empower the visually impaired, is on record saying the disabled lack access to job opportunities because of stigma and discrimination. For example, they lack access to shelter and residential stands, as legislation doesn’t require buildings to be accessible to people in wheelchairs or visually challenged people.

”The lack of job opportunities leads to a life of extreme poverty, something our organization continues to fight,” Musesemwa was quoted as saying.- ZimEye
Chada Defies The Odds

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