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society has not yet accepted disability
Association of Societies for the Care of the Handicapped (NASCOH)
from Disability Update Nov 1-7, 2006
November 02, 2006
It’s not all gloom
and doom in the disability world. Meeting Benhilda Marume, better
known as the trend-setting Tamara of Studio 263 fame, one is struck
by her zest for life, her keen intelligence, her keen and quick
wit, her quick and engaging smile, and her boundless energy. Her
engaging manner masks a deep-seated problem: her dissatisfaction
with the Zimbabwean culture for failing to come to terms with the
reality of disability, for stigmatising it as a curse, and for discriminating
blatantly against people with disabilities with relative impunity.
towards people with disabilities have to change. Stigmatisation
of people with disabilities is still rife. We would like to live
normally but our environments are not conducive,’ lamented the actress,
who added that her dream was to see a positive minded Zimbabwean
society, in which people were not discriminated against on the grounds
of disability. She recited an incident where she wanted to board
a kombi but was told bluntly by the driver that the kombi was not
meant for people with disabilities.
Born 24 years
ago in Bulawayo, the combative actress, who is the Executive Chairperson
of Disabled Women Support Organisation, an organisation whose main
focus is to physically and economically empower women and girls
with disabilities, grew up in Masvingo where she did her primary
and secondary education. Growing up able-bodied, she had absolutely
no idea of what fate had in store for her. She was 17 when, coming
from a school trip with her sister, Sharon Marume, who was also
a teacher at the school, she was involved in the fateful accident.
The resultant damage to her spine meant that she would have to use
a wheelchair for the rest of her life.
How did she emerge
from the depths of despair to become a celebrated actress on Studio
263 and a role model not only for people with disabilities but for
the generality of Zimbabwean youth? Benhilda picks up the story:
"I had gone to attend ‘This is Life’ show which focused on
the social problems of AIDS and people with disabilities. After
the show, I conversed with the Director, Godwin Mawuru. I commended
them for doing a good job but indicated to them that they were somehow
missing the point by leaving out the aspect of disability. They
then asked me to put my ideas on paper and give them to Aaron Chiunduramoyo,
the creator of Studio 263. After that, they took me on board".
It is a measure
of her self confidence and determination to succeed against all
odds that Benhilda, who at that time had absolutely no prior acting
experience, went on to become an icon on the screen, giving polished
performances episode after episode and keeping thousands of viewers
riveted to the screen with each performance.
actress never encountered any difficulties with the crew she works
with at Studio 263. Everyone, she said, was very supportive and
eager to help and also to learn. She singled out Tinopona Katsande
(Joyce in the soap) and Charity Dlodlo (mai Madziva) as being especially
supportive. These were the people that she talked to most and shared
But, what motivated
her to join the soap? ‘I wanted do demystify and bring out the life
of people with disabilities into the open. I wanted to bring out
the fact that people with disabilities can live independently and
that there is nothing abnormal about us. We can lead normal lives,
just like everyone else.’ She said.
The wish by people
with disabilities to be viewed as normal, ordinary people who can
contribute meaningfully and positively to the development of the
country is an issue that is at the centre of the human rights perspective
on disability. Central to the human rights perspective on disability
is the concept of inclusion, which, in fine, involves a process
of social change, so that society views people with disabilities
as normal, ordinary people and not as welfare cases, and the putting
into place of strategies for the implementation of disability and
non-discriminatory policies that result in people with disabilities
being given the same opportunities and encouragement to develop
and grow into the kind of person they choose.
to fame and perseverance in the face of adversity has endeared her
to Zimbabweans from all walks of life and rekindled hope that the
veil of ignorance, fear and prejudice, through which society views
people with disabilities, will ultimately be removed. ‘To tell the
truth, the public loves me because they were probably not expecting
such an attitude from a person with a disability. I have become
a role model to both able bodied people and people with disabilities.
People now realize that it is possible to rise to the occasion and
get involved in situations that they thought were beyond their reach’.
Benhilda is the
last of six children. She has very supportive parents who have enabled
her to weather the storm of societal prejudice and indifference.
Her mother is a nurse at Ruwa Rehabilitation Centre while her father
is a pensioner who used to work in the health sector.
The actress, who
is also a marketing student, says she draws inspiration from her
mother, and also from Gladys Charowa, the Executive Director of
the Disabled Women Support Organisation, and her friend Rejoice
Timire: ‘They taught me how to fight, how to be resilient and that,
whatever situation you come across, you can overcome’. She also
pays tribute to her sisters Sharon, Caroline, and Irene and her
two brothers Derek and Freddy and also ‘my little nephews who fight
with me for the use of my wheelchair’.
Her most memorable
experience was when after succumbing to amnesia and forgetting her
mother after sliding into a comma, she then remembered her after
slipping out of yet another coma. ‘When I slipped out of it, the
first person I saw was my mother on my bedside. I immediately remembered
her’. On the downside, she cites her worst experience as her failure
to hold a relationship. ‘I feel our Zimbabwean culture hasn’t accepted
disability because they feel it is a curse so every time I think
I am in a relationship and it’s getting serious, I am quick to jump
out of it,’ she adds, with a hint of sadness.
Asked about her
aspirations, she explains wistfully: ‘My aspiration is to take my
career to a higher level and get involved in movies and soapies
like Generations, just to prove the point that us people with physical
disabilities are, in fact, able. I would also love to start my own
family, have a good job, drive my own car and live independently
with my friend Gadzai Rejoice who is also wheelchair bound’.
actress, whose motto is ‘Despite my disability I will fly high’,
lists reading, singing, dancing, talking (I love talking. It’s a
way of getting rid of stress), tennis and ….basking in the sun.
the sky is indeed the limit!
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