Born deaf in Rubavu district, Western Rwanda, Prince Nahimana beat all odds to get education and picked interest in Art, which he pursued to graduate with a bachelors Art and industrial design in Uganda.
Nahimana participated at the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) celebrations on December 7, 2022 at the University of Kigali, Rwamagana Campus. The day was marked with activities like songs, poems, and dances, and performances by youth with disabilities to showcase their talents.
The youth at this event indicated that disability is inability and Nahimana is a good example. Four years ago, he returned home and founded the Kigali Deaf Art Gallery.
“I started the gallery so as to show that disabled persons have talents,” Nahimana said.
The art gallery is meant to help persons with disabilities who have different challenges, especially the deaf.
Currently the gallery operates in Kigali and employs 13 disabled youths (including 6 girls). They make beaded pots, paintings, drawings, mural paintings and sculptures. They also make jewelry ornaments, multimedia and fashion, among other things.
Nahimana who was among the finalists in the 2022 Art Ubuhanzi competition (organized by Imbuto Foundation) says that they have plans to operate countrywide and train disabled persons in arts, painting and sign language translation skills which can help the members market and sell their products.
“I wanted to reach out to other people living with disabilities and help them find employment, and in turn reduce the high level of unemployment among the deaf through creating jobs,” he says.
Every school’s holiday, the gallery conducts training for students but Nahimana says that the number of children attending are few because parents are reluctant to send them.
“There are many parents who use disabled children for begging, but my plan is to seek fund and work with the government to set up a training center for children with disabilities and their parents so that they can earn from their talents,” Nahimana said.
The IDPD day is usually observed on December 3, and this year’s theme was “Transformative Solutions for Inclusive Development: The role of innovations in fueling an accessible and equitable world.”
Such solutions hail from projects like Cooperative 30 deaf women in Nyamirambo sector in Kigali, a fashion business which makes made in Rwanda clothing and jewelry but also runs a deaf women’s dance troupe.
Françoise Uwikunda, the cooperative coordinator says that the initiative has allowed members to come out of isolation to be able to earn income, show their talents through dance, but access information.
We don’t only make money but also during dance practices, our members can access information on reproductive health and keep it with current trends instead of staying home,” Uwikunda said.
Juru Initiative- a student-led organization that works to address different challenges that young people with disabilities in Rwanda are implementing the Special Needs and Inclusive Education (SNE) policy to ensure that all children and youth including those with disabilities have access to equitable, inclusive, and quality education.
Justin Ruhumuriza, a medical student and founder of Juru Initiative says that through the ‘Impano challenge’they help children with disabilities expose their talents in a way of raising self-confidence among them through inclusive education and create income generating projects.
Through its advocacy and working with districts, the initiative provides menstrual pad to 500 girls with disabilities and employment for over 50 youth graduates.
UNICEF Representative in Rwanda, Julianna Lindsay says persons with disabilities just need some support and acknowledgement to bring out their talents but the country and economy can miss out on possibilities and scientific discoveries if persons with disabilities are not given an opportunity to express themselves in many talents and genius.
“The talents displayed here demonstrate that their ability overrides their disability. All they need from us is a bit of support and space to meet their needs holistically, and we’ve been helping and will continue to,” Lindsay said.