Meet Sinikiwe Kademunga, the 24 year old Zimbabwean born rock star who lives her life radiating that nothing is impossible in life if you put your mind to it. She was born with no arms, no knees. Although she grew up with cultural, social and economic barriers, she did not let that ground her. Sinikiwe is the winner of the 2016 Courage award for the Zimbabwe International Women’s Awards (ZIWA).She is currently completing her degree in Social Work at the University of Cape Town. Sinikiwe also runs a blog called Life in the shoes of a short girl where she shares her life journey to inspire and mentor other young Africans like herself to be more confident in their own bodies and believe that anything is possible in life despite their physical barriers.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced in your life and how did you overcome them?
Accessibility is the biggest challenge I faced in my life until today. When I was in high school, I lived about 1,5km away from the school. Walking to and from school was so difficult considering my disability. The school was not accessible at all, there was a lot of stairs and walking around was a challenge. Even at home I was not able to be independent because everything was too high for me to reach. There is nothing as frustrating as relying on other people on a day to day life. Being strong and accepting that is how my life is, made me overcame the challenges. I love the saying “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have”. The struggles I face now especially with accessibility make me stay focused on my goals because I want a better life for people with disabilities and myself.
Tell us about some impactful initiatives you have taken so far, how successful they have been, what made them a success and what do you think can make them become a continuous and growing impact in Africa?
I have been involved in a campaign called #accessiblecitiesforall which was an initiative for an accessible city for people with disabilities. The campaign was quite successful. We are witnessing some of the impacts now. However, in future, it will be nice to have more people with disabilities being more active in such campaigns. Even in Africa, I think it will be great to involve people with disabilities in issues that affect them. Also, the power of the media, it will be great to see more coverage of disability issues in the media, rather than charity cases only. People with disabilities are powerful and able to speak out their concerns.
As independent as you are, we know everyone needs someone. Tell us the kind of people you wish to work with in support of your initiatives, and if there are some you already work with? How do they support your cause?
I love to work with people who are passionate about disability empowerment and people with disabilities. These are people who are facing the challenges and are in a better position to suggest solutions to their challenges. Now I am working with parents of children with disabilities so that they can be equipped with knowledge on how to empower their children. I am planning on an event in December for parents. I believe that where I am today is because of my grandmother who was strong and able to empower me to be independent.
We understand that you want to focus on issues of accessibility and equal opportunities once you are done with school, what other issues interest you and you see yourself getting involved in?
I like issues about women’s empowerment. I’m interested in everything about the disadvantaged groups because I feel like they do not have enough voice. I have double disadvantage being disabled and being a woman. This is the area I have already started focusing on although at this point I am specifically working with mothers of children with disability.
We can see you are quite comfortable in your own body, which is very inspiring. Have you ever thought of getting prostheses?
My physiotherapist tried to give me prostheses when I was so young but I never liked them. Since then I have never tried to get them because I feel comfortable using my own arms. It makes things so quick and easy. Maybe it is because I was born with the disability and I have learnt to do chores without the prosthesis.
As a motivational speaker, what do you like your audience to take home with them as the key message?
I usually focus on self-confidence, self-love and self-esteem. Mostly my audience is for people with disabilities. However, to anyone who listens to my message, I want them to be themselves in a world full of standards and try to make you like someone else. Different is unique, unique is different.
Who are some of the people that inspire you in life?
Nick Vuijic: I admire his courage, despite his disability he lives against all odds.
Kezya Nunes: She has a disability just like mine. One thing I admire about her is that she is a family woman. One day I want to have a family, she always gives me hope that I can handle a family.
My grandmother: Though she passed away 10 years ago her strength and commitment still amazes me. I get inspired each and every day to make her proud.
What do you like to do for recreation and fun
I love nature so I enjoy going to the park, beach or anywhere I can enjoy nature. I also watch a lot of documentaries and reality shows. I enjoy, spending time with family and friends. I read a lot of blogs as well (Hahahaha not sure if I can call it recreation activity).
What are you currently reading?
I am reading From the bedroom, to the boardroom by Princess Tsakani Khambule. It is actually a good book for ladies who wants to be both career and family woman. It also enlightens on how to start and run your own business.
Thank you Sinikiwe for shaping the way for young people all over Africa. You are the Afrikan Legacy