Sabrina Karie, 24, is a single mother of a severely disabled child living in an informal settlement (slums) in Vanuatu. Sabrina likes fashion and singing and although her life is difficult, she is full of hope.
In this piece, Sabrina speaks about her experience of social exclusion in Vanuatu and the challenges she faces on a daily basis. By sharing her story, she hopes to educate and empower others.
Why do you stare at my baby? Don’t you know that it makes me sad and angry at the same time? Don’t you know that I can’t change my baby’s condition?
Why do you talk about me and my baby like we have a disease – the only disease that you can catch from my baby is love and compassion.
Why do you hate me? What have my little one and I done to you or taken from you?
I live in a hallway, no one cares, they just past by us, there is no privacy and no respect. People even steal my baby’s belongings – his pillow, clothes, food and toys.
On three separate occasions I left my phone with the music turned on next to my baby to keep him calm while I went to bathe myself and you stole it from my baby’s bed.
Why do you blame me? You stare at me like an animal in a cage. Why do you threaten me?
Why do you think I shouldn’t have a life or enjoy myself?
I love my child but I am human – I have needs and yes my baby comes first but I also need rest, relaxation and acknowledgement in order to have the strength to continue to be the best mother I can be to my beautiful angel baby.
Do you know the feelings I have to work through every day? I feel isolated, lonely, sad, afraid for our safety and worried that I can’t meet the needs of my child.
I cannot even leave him to attend to work and yet without work I am dependant on the limited kindness of others to meet my child’s needs.
Do you know how much love I have for my child?
I see him as a gift from God – God gave this special child to test both your humanity and mine as well as to test our love for God.
My baby is a gift, an opportunity to learn compassion and selflessness for others who are different from us.
I am a better person because of you my special baby.
You, my baby, have taught me to care and love for others who are different from myself. Before I didn’t care about people with disabilities now I embrace them as God’s people and as special gifts to the world.
To my accusers – you often tell me that it’s my fault that my baby has a disability.
You say that I have sinned and that this is my punishment for my sins.
You tell me – ‘Your baby is like that because you were strong headed and your sins have made him like that’ or ‘You’re an unmarried mother and deserve for your child to be the way it is!’
Even you, my own family and neighbours, who witnessed my child and I’s hardships, you hate me, you blame me, you imprison me.
You go to church every Sunday but I know what you do and say about my baby and me.
Tell me the secret my little child how do you stay so positive and happy all the time – even in the face of so much hate and anger?
At times I want to leave this world but then I don’t because I think and worry about who will care for my baby if I was gone. No one out there can care for my baby or could ever love my baby the same way as I do.
I have dreams too.
I dream of being a working mother. I dream of having my own house and my own land. I dream of becoming a singer, a fashion writer, I dream of walking down the street with my baby and being treated with respect and kindness. I dream this for all the other mothers and people with disabilities in the world as we also deserve nothing but happiness.
Next time you see my baby and me on the street or even in your community or your family – try something different.
Greet me and my baby the same way as you would others. Help me and my baby into the bus when I am trying to fold my pram and get in too.
Don’t stare at us, please don’t ask me question about my babies disability –instead ask my baby’s name and age like you would any other mother and child.
As told to Niki Taiwia, a local humanitarian journalist, who works for a not-for-profit organisation in Vanuatu.
Niki has set up a safe house for Ni-Vanuatu children from difficult backgrounds (disability and victims of sexual abuse) and assists single mothers with the ultimate goal of empowering people who are in vulnerable positions.
The passionate human rights activist says, ‘I believe in the power of advocacy and providing a voice for those who want to tell their stories but are fearful or not confident in doing so. Many issues in Ni-Vanuatu culture are seen as taboo to talk about but it is essential to bring these topics to light to change women’s position in society.’
Through her advocacy, Niki has met many vulnerable women who recognize the benefit of sharing their stories as not only a form of therapy and relief, but also as a way to empower and give hope to others who are in similar situations.
Sista Magazine is honoured to collaborate with Niki to assist women in vulnerable and disadvantaged situations to share their stories. ‘This is a way in which we can hear women and girls’ stories and raise a voice through embracing each other,’ says Niki. ‘So Speak Up Sista!’