Donatila Kanimba refused to let blindness hinder her

Briefly tell us about yourself. I am 52 years old and I’ve had my position since 1996.I was born in Burundi; I am the fifth born in the family of eight. Sadly, four of my siblings past away during the liberation struggle. My late parents were Callixte Kanimba and Zamariya Mahunda.
Kanimba speaks to New Times from her office. The New Times / Pelagie Mbabazi.
Kanimba speaks to New Times from her office. The New Times / Pelagie Mbabazi.

Briefly tell us about yourself.

I am 52 years old and I’ve had my position since 1996.I was born in Burundi; I am the fifth born in the family of eight. Sadly, four of my siblings past away during the liberation struggle. My late parents were Callixte Kanimba and Zamariya Mahunda.
When I became of school going age, I was sent to a boarding a school in Nairobi that catered for children who were born blind or lost sight at a young age, like me. I would come once a year for holidays. I attended both primary school and secondary school in Nairobi and later joined Nairobi University.

What were your childhood dreams?

It’s very strange but I don’t think I had any childhood dream due to my illness. I only started dreaming of what I would be in the future when I was a teenager. First I wanted to be a doctor but, as time went on, I realised that I couldn’t since I was blind and I had to let it go.

When was the association of the blind formed and what are its objectives?

The association was formed in 1994 by blind people who returned from exile but it was officially registered in 1995. I’ve been its leader since 1996 when I returned from Kenya. So far, we have 4000 members.
We aim at bringing blind people out of isolation, to promote education and rehabilitation of blind people by creating dialogues between the association, government and other relevant authorities. We also aim to encourage the society to give them an opportunity to participate in the development of the country because they have many talents

What are some of the challenges you meet and how do you overcome them?

My worst nightmare is if this association stops existing because we depend on international funds especially from blind people from Denmark and Sweden and I keep wondering, ‘what if they say ‘enough is enough for you Rwandan blind people’! I wouldn’t like to say that there is no one who is willing to help blind people in Rwanda but I think they don’t know how to do it. My suggestion is that the Government should be the first to fund us.

You are blind, how are you able to run this association?

I have some people who help me do the work that I can’t do by myself like filing and other tasks. But I initiate  the proposals that help us get funds, set goals and objectives and  have performance contracts like elsewhere.

What are the biggest challenges the blind encounter?

There are no challenges that can’t be dealt with. The main challenge to blind people is the denial of self expression. Many people tend to think that the best thing you can do to help a blind person is to sit them down in a corner. But they forget that while we can’t see, all the other senses are normal; we need to participate in different activities. Another challenge young blind people face is the denial of education. Some parents and guardians feel that they are wasting money by paying school fees for them.

What is your current relationship status?

I am single.

How do you spend your leisure time?

I don’t have leisure time but what I do on Saturday and Sunday is to have some special time with my family members. We visit each other, I attend weddings and I go for church. When I was still in Kenya I went for movies and swimming.

What are your future plans?

I would like to have strong association for blind people that will do advocacy from the grassroots. This is because the major challenges we encounter is people not understanding blind people and blindness. Personally I am planning to go for further studies so that I can teach university students.

What message do you have for people who still think that blind people should be kept in the background?

That is a backward way of looking at things. In fact, they should be encouraging them to participate in society development because if you do so people start feeling recognised and live up to the potential in them. I would like to remind society that there is a lot of untapped potential among the people living with disabilities.

 

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