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Visually-challenged empowering visually-unchallenged

In the current sorry economic state in the country, it is not uncommon to hear tales of how scarce job opportunities have become especially the so called white collar jobs.

According to data from the latest census conducted in 2019, Kenya has 18.9 million people not involved in any economic activity, out of which 16.1 million were full time students and 1.5 million home-makers. Some 22.9 million or 48.2 per cent of the population are below 17 years, pointing to a wave of millions of jobseekers joining the market with very limited opportunities available.

Any job seeker can attest to the fact that getting employment is no mean feat, a circumstance that is even harder to overcome if you are a person living with disability, and this has led to a lot of youth opting for alternative means of making ends meet.

In Sigomere Ward, Ugunja Sub- County in Siaya County, one woman has taken it upon herself to live up-to the cliché that disability is not inability and is now a pillar that many youths living with disability in her locality.

Pamela Auko, in her mid-thirties was born with macular degeneration, a condition that led to her losing her eyesight during childhood. However the loss of vision has not deterred her from being an independent woman who uses her talents to not only fend for herself, but also to teach others who are living with various forms of disabilities how to also be self-reliant.

“I work very hard despite my disability. I don’t sit and beg for help,” Auko says as she arranges her products side by side neatly on her display table.

Auko has been teaching children with disability knitting skills and some of the products they make include sweaters and windbreakers, woven baskets and key holders.

By passing her skills to them, Auko says the children and women sell these products and can sustain themselves without feeling helpless and useless to society. “They can use their God given talents and make money without having to look for work or rely on other people for assistance,” Auko adds.

Auko was taught knitting skills by Solphine Akinyi Othuol who though had no disability sought to empower women and children in Siaya especially those with disabilities to use their talents and skills to earn a decent living by utilizing locally available resources.

Akinyi says she acquired the skills in Nairobi and decided to come back to her home county to help empower women and children, especially the vulnerable group of physically challenged women uplift their living standards.

“I urge women to take it upon themselves to empower themselves and use their talents. Even if you are physically challenged, work hard using the talents you have and you will succeed. You cannot fail to sell a few items you make in order to better your lives,” Akinyi said.

“If people with physical challenges are afforded opportunities as I was, they have a chance of living decent lives without having to beg or rely on others for financial assistance,” she concludes convincingly.

By Calvin Otieno

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