Written by Nkiru Njoku
I was upset when people kept sending it to me to tell me how this would be Didi one day.
I know they thought they were being kind and encouraging, but I did not receive any of it that way. It actually always made me very angry.
So if I never responded to your message, that was why. I hate to be patronized on those levels and I permit myself to be self-indulgent with my irritation. So, thank you for engaging with me over the years every time I have talked about my daughter’s blindness, but nah.
And I know MTN didn’t make the advert because of Nk’iru. Njoku, plus my opinion actually does not count, but I wish the advert didn’t have marriage as its backdrop.
Before our blind daughters get to the point where they want to get married or not, they must grow up within a society that is still tailored to the sighted, right?
How does assistive technology aid this process of growing up and living optimally in a world not designed for one’s unique needs as a blind person?
Getting to school.
Spatial awareness and independence.
Getting around by taxis.
Using accounting software.
It is a long list and I have by no means exhausted it.
Did I tell you once upon a time that I read about a completely blind doctor who performed surgery? Completely blind, zero light perception. And a completely blind chef and food blogger whose career was what it was because of assistive technology?
If you think deeply and creatively about it, you will find that there are so many aspects of life and living where assistive technology can step up to make a blind child’s life more liveable.
But our people had a chance to show us what their network could contribute to the life of a blind young woman and marriage was the first backdrop that they could come up with.
And we all know why.
Marrying a disabled person is a big deal. Especially when it’s the woman that is disabled. There’s a sense of a favour having been done her and her family. There is also a reciprocal and enduring sense of gratitude that the family of the girl is likely to carry around.
“Ah, somebody married your blind child!”
“Is it easy?”
This is why families send out emissaries to the villages of prospective sons/daughters-in-law to ‘check if they have blindness and madness in their family’. So that they know what they are up against. And I understand it even if I don’t agree with the crude aspects of this particular culture. However, I may be digressing.
I think MTN could have done better.
Griping about MTN’s choice of backdrop should not be confused with me purporting to speak for all parents who have blind children and daughters especially. My angst is solely mine and should be treated as such.
However, I feel that I can speak for many parents who have blind children when I assert that outside of the story world of a minutes-long advertorial, education and social independence are more of a need for blind children than marriage would ever be.
And so, how can you help?
What do you do?
How can you use what you do to make the life of a disabled Nigerian child better?
Will you always task yourself to remember that education within the context of who they are and what their disabilities are, is paramount?
If their needs are so complex that they cannot access education and will only require a good knowledge of life skills to survive, will you help them in whichever way you can, WITHOUT BEING ASKED?
Happy children’s day to the children of the world. Able and disabled alike.
Hopefully, we will leave the world a better place for you.