- Jemimah says she is lucky to be alive because some children who were also treated that week died while others became paralysed.
- As a mother, mobility is her major challenge and she has to enlist help to carry her children around when they are young.
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An injection to treat a persistent cough and high fever when she was five years old resulted in Jemimah Kutata having a physical disability. But this was also the beginning of a journey as a rights activist.
A day after receiving the injection, Jemimah Kutata was unable to walk and her parents took her back to the hospital.
Doctors advised them to make a parallel bar – a device designed to assist patients with walking following an injury or disability – to aid their child in walking exercises until her leg muscles gain strength. But this did not help her as expected.
Jemimah says she is lucky to be alive because some children who were also treated that week died while others became paralysed, mostly in their legs where the injected was administered.
Jemimah blames the doctors for taking advantage of her parents who believed that she was going to be fine.
“During those years, our parents were not enlightened on issues to do with disabilities. Also, there were no physiotherapists in our rural homes. Nothing much could be done,” she says.
As a child, she did not understand what it meant to live with a disability and the challenges it would pose to her throughout her life.
Later when she was an adult, she met the doctor who administered the injection that led to her condition. Her mother had told her about the doctor but Jemimah chose not to talk about her condition.
“My friends told me to sue him, but I found no purpose in that because it would not make me walk normally again,” Jemimah says.
Today, she walks with the support of two elbow crutches and a calliper on her right leg.
On September 19, 2018, Jemimah, 40, was all smiles when she was feted by Christoffel Blinden Mission (CBM) Kenya at Jacaranda Hotel, Nairobi.
A certificate of Outstanding Service Award was presented to her for advocating for the inclusion and rights of people living with disability in Kenya.
Jemimah was brought up in a humble background and in those days in her Maasai community, a girl was rarely educated.Some disabled children were also left to die in manyattas, she adds.
But she was lucky. She got callipers from a Catholic mission centre in Loitoktok, Kajiado County, and later, when she joined Child Care Centre in the county, she was given modified assistive devices.
“When disability begins at childhood it is more manageable than when you acquire disability in adulthood. Since I started using braces at an early age it was not a challenge and we had some missionaries who were really supporting us with physiotherapy and other exercises,” Jemimah says.
She attended Africa Inland Church (AIC) Girls Primary School in Kajiado – a boarding school – when she was 10, as the long distance made it difficult for her to walk to a day school.
“I missed my parents so much and would only see them during the school visiting and closing days,” she recalls.
She later joined Moi Girls Isinya in Kajiado County and she felt different as she was the only physically challenged girl in the school at the time. She did not attend evening preps, but read in the dormitory instead, because the classrooms were far from the dormitories.
After completing her secondary school, she joined the Association for the Physically Disabled of Kenya (APDK) Coast branch and enrolled in tailoring and dressmaking courses funded by Christoffel Blinden Mission.
CAREER AND FAMILY
Her vision was to become a designer and she marketed outfits made by people living with disability at Bombolulu Workshops and Cultural Centre.
In 2003, she became the first physically challenged model to hit the catwalk with able-bodied models at the Coast.
She later went back to college and studied Business Administration and was employed by APDK Coast branch as a receptionist. Her hard work won her a promotion and she became the personal assistant to the executive officer.
Jemimah considers herself lucky to be married to a man who truly cares for her. They have three children – a boy, 11, and two girls aged five and three years.