This article was written by Miss Wheelchair South Africa, Miss Wheelchair World First Princess and Rolling Inspiration contributor Lebohang Monyatsi
At the age of nine, Lindiwe contracted polio. She could no longer play as she used to – a difficult fact to accept. Like many parents of a child with a disability, Lindiwe’s mother and father were ill prepared to guide her psychologically through this change. Lindiwe says: “[It can be difficult for parents to] sit you down and make you understand things that you cannot do.”
At school she was bullied, although her brothers often came to her rescue. Today, the 39-year old feminist is a strong woman, whose strength grew out of her many challenges. Lindiwe has two daughters: Fortunate, 23, and Snenhlahla, 9, who has Spina Bifida – a birth defect that occurs when the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly.
Lindiwe’s partner left after discovering that young Snenhlahla had a disability.
“Giving birth to Snenhlahla was not easy,” recalls Lindiwe, who suffered a stroke during the birth. And then, after Snenhlahla was born, Lindiwe wasn’t able to take her baby girl home.
“Those were the worst days of my life, as I had to go in and out of the hospital with no one to support me. What made it worse was the treatment I received from the nurses,” Lindiwe says.
The dynamic woman comes from a Christian family, who helped her keep faith during those dark times. She quotes a piece of wisdom she learned from them: “There is a reason behind every struggle and one comes out a stronger person.”
During her childhood in Mpumalanga, disability was seen as taboo. Some people with disabilities were hidden from society, but Lindiwe’s mother had the courage to make her daughter face the world. Despite how painful it was, Lindiwe learned that attitudes towards disabilities and how people with disabilities are treated would have to change.
“I have taught my daughter not to label herself disabled, but to see herself as equal to everyone,” Lindiwe says.
Her advice to parents of children with disabilities is to rise, wise up and remember that “everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but as a parent, you should focus on what you can change. And stop wasting time on what you can’t.”