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Blind At 6, Niyotwizera Sews His Way Into The Future

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Despite being visually impaired, Niyotwizera can sew.

Olivier Niyotwizera recently graduated with skills in sewing and weaving different clothes in silk at Rwanda Union of the Blind (RUB) vocational school in Masaka, in Kigali city.

Niyotwizera was born with sight but started going blind at the age of six, and had been receiving treatment for the last 15 years, but failed to cure and remained permanently blind.

His blindness resulted in dropping out of school where he had reached the fifth year of primary school and this drop out was also caused by lack of inclusive education in the school he attended.

Sitting at home as a blind person, Niyotwizera says was a cause of self-isolation and depression thus he decided to join a vocational education and graduated recently.

“I now have the confidence to start a sewing career,” said Niyotwizera, who is among the four blind youth who on December 15, 2022 received tailoring equipment from Kabgayi Hospital eye department in Muhanga district.

The hospital eye department in collaboration with the Christian Blind Mission (CBM) in Rwanda- an international Christian development organization committed to improving the quality of life of persons with disabilities in developing countries.

With his acquired skills and expected income, Niyotwizera says he will take care of his disabled friends who did not have the opportunity to learn any trade or life skills.

Niyotwizera showcases he is knitting skills.

Niyotwizera’s mother, who treated him for a long time but in vain, says that she was worried of her son’s blindness and saw it as the end of the road, but now she has confidence that he is going to be a better person in the community.

The Rwanda Union of the Blind (RUB) says that people with disabilities, especially the blind, should learn vocational skills so as to contribute to their development and that of the country as a whole.

Donatille Kanimba, the RUB President says that when people with disabilities dare to go to vocational schools show confidence in improving themselves unlike those who remain in isolation, commonly caused by their communities.

John Muhayimana, the Kabgayi hospital eye department officials said that besides treating patients they support the vulnerable ones through finding vocational training for young blind persons so as to promote the inclusion and contribution in society.

“It is not easy but we find for them necessary skills to learn,” he said.

Muhayimana said they don’t only treat, they also support the visually impaired to overcome vulnerability.

Graduates are provided with tools to help them start their business using acquired life skills- especially in the field of knitting, sewing and welding- domains which would require one to see, but against odds the beneficiaries like Niyotwizera come out as experts.

At the equipment handover ceremony held in Muhanga district, Niyotwizera who was wearing sunglasses, demonstrated how he is able to sew and weave clothes using the machines with just a little help from one of the colleagues with eyesight.

Numerous factors including stigma, lack of awareness, poverty, and limited access to basic social services and parental care, restrict persons, especially children with disabilities (CwD) from enjoying their full spectrum of rights, according to the United Nations Children’s agency (UNICEF).

UNICEF in Rwanda has, in collaboration with local initiatives, announced embarking on empowering persons with disabilities to express themselves, promote their participation in community development and creating awareness.

The Mayor of Muhanga District, Jacqueline Kayitare, says that they have set up a plan to help the disabled to develop, and it is being done in a safe way so that they are welcomed into the Rwandan community, and participate in cooperating with others in development.

Additional reporting: Murindabigwi Ephrem

Kayitare, mayor Muhanga district

Niyotwizera receives a sewing machine.   

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