Continuation from ‘Unbroken Wings- chapter 1’:

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“My parents have given me tremendous support. They never stopped me at any juncture to pursue whatever I wanted to do. After class eight, I couldn’t go on with secondary education due to my condition but I joined Burhaniya finishing college instead. I did a two years home science course there where I perfected my art of embroidery, crotchet, fabric/glass painting amongst other skills that I learnt,” she says as she looks at her art pieces, longingly, that are still hanged on her bedroom walls, “Unfortunately I stopped doing art when I started venturing into other things in life, but I still love art like I always have.”

Nafisa didn’t stop spreading her wings by learning art; she went on to seeking a job where she first worked at a Celebral Palsy centre situated in Tudor in 1994. She however had to quit because the pay couldn’t fit her needs and also it being a tough job handling the challenged children. She thereafter studied several packages at Aries Data Systems, she got a job at Compucon Ventures Ltd and worked there for two years before the company closed. Not giving up, she went on to work at Tyre and Tread ventures, worked there for a while before moving on to Marajani Communications where the working hours and days were challenging and thus couldn’t stay there any longer too. Her last job was with her father at Hatimi Joinery works Ltd.

Besides all that, she was also a member of the Rotary Club of Mombasa since 1998. The club brings people together for beneficial activities, fellowship and to help the needs of others. Nafisa became part of the Rotaract wing which is the youth wing of Rotary club i.e. below 30 fellows. She was given the responsibility of Director of community service three months after becoming a member, later she became its president in 2000 and 2001. Again in 2009, she joined ‘Inner Wheel club of Mombasa’ which is a group of the wives and female relatives of Rotarians. In this group she served as a president for two years.

“Nafisa used to do wonders at the Rotaract youth wing. She used to come up with great ideas, organize everything, work tirelessly and make things happen. They used to call me her transport manager for I would always be the one to pick her up for meetings and all events. I tell you, Nafisa is the strongest woman I have ever met. She never made me feel her disability or even allow me to pity her at any moment,” Manoj, her long-time friend says.

“My sister has always been doing things that not even us; the normal and healthy beings are doing. While she was still at Rotaract, she once came up with this idea of feeding handicapped children during Christmas. She arranged everything and made packages for the children by the help of other Rotractors. During that Christmas, we fed 1200 children. It was a huge success. It was because of her great ambition and passion that she was sponsored by Rotary International for a tour to Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe,” Hussein, Nafisa’s elder brother narrates.

“What Nafisa has done is prove to me and everyone else that disability is not inability. She physically participates in all events. You know we have so many people who have roads named after them, hospitals, schools yet all they did is give out  large cheques while someone like Nafisa always goes out of her way to do the charity projects. She is resourceful, determined, kind and caring; always has great ideas and makes sure she is present to supervise all her projects. Nafisa works even when it is harmful for her body. She is indeed one of the unsung heroes,” an ex-rotarian says.

In 2006, Nafisa went on to do something that was going to change her life forever. She organized a stage drama by the name ‘Dear Diary’ which was highlighting the challenges of the disabled. The play revolved around Hanifa, who has lived with a physical disability all her life. She is forced out of school at an early age due to her failing health, shattering her dreams of becoming a lawyer. She then meets Zaheer and falls in love with him. But Zaheer did that one devastating thing; he dumps Hanifa for a ‘perfectly created’ lady. The play was sponsored by Nakumatt holdings, directed by Namanje and Godiah, stage managed by Muscat Sayye and produced by Nafisa herself. It was first acted at Little Theatre Club and the play brought a new untouched topic to people’s minds; the hidden feelings of the disabled.

The play won the hearts of many and the start was magical. The play opened with the main character, Nafisa, being wheeled onto the podium to receive an award. But she pauses at the base of the staircase and rejects her guide’s offer to lift her onto the stage. She then read what she calls a speech from her diary:

“I am standing before this staircase of confusion with a task of transforming my thoughts, to a destiny and the access to this wonderful destiny lies on the ability of this wheelchair. I have struggled all my life to make it to the peak, and I am standing at the foot of my dream to receive a star of honour for serving diligently towards a humanity cause. They are giving medals to humanity-generals up there (points to the podium), but the same problem I have fought all my life (pointing at the stairs) is barring me from receiving my priceless trophy.”

The play was staged again thrice at Little theatre club again, then done again twice in 2008 at the same venue while the last two shows were staged in 2009, in Kenya National theatre in Nairobi.

“My aim for Dear Diary is to change the perception of the society of people with disability. And another thing that inspired me to put up my life on stage is that every time I visit the United Kingdom, I get a completely different experience as there are facilities for the physically disabled. I feel that if a quarter of the facilities there were put in place in our country, our life would be better for us.”

In 2011, she formed an initiative with the same name as her play, ‘Dear Diary Initiative”. It is a non-profitable community initiative to advocate for the welfare and rights of the disabled. With that, Nafisa allowed herself to transform from being a sensitive girl with unachieved dreams to a strong, passionate lady making changes.

“Nafisa dedicated her life to Dear Diary. She still does. And without bias I would say, Dear Diary is Nafisa more than it is a group. She is the face of the initiative and she has worked without paying herself any penny from what they are offered. See Dear Diary depends entirely on sponsors and well wishers. Nafisa is not working anywhere else to earn herself any extra penny. Yet still, she would never accept any money for herself from Dear Diary Money. Even the religion allows us that for the collector of charity gets a portion, but Nafisa would never allow that. She does this entirely as charity. She is strong willed and a go-getter,” Mustan, Nafisa’s other brother says.

Without knowing it, Nafisa was inspiring many other disabled people AND normal people. To date DDI projects have been so many and her principle was that, disabled people do not need us to give them food and money and our sympathy. But they need us to help them in ways that can make them stand up for themselves. Be strong enough to venture into the world. Hence, Nafisa’s strategies in DDI was not only providing food but more important things like albino caps, educational text books in brail, reflective jackets, wheelchairs, mosquito nets among many other things. This is precisely what made Nafisa outstanding. She knew exactly what her fellows needed. She is empathetic and looks beyond the corners of the box. She wanted to make a difference and she did. She still does.

“I have known Nafisa since childhood and I was there too when her story was first staged. I was the one who was playing the background music of the play. I have been with her through many phases of her life and have always considered her my sister. From her childhood where she used to like scrabble and keram and hide and seek, to the days we used to meet at her grandparents’ farm in Mariakani during holidays, to the times she would feel low due to loneliness…I can tell you that she is very aggressive, hardworking, with a vision. She never asks for favours from anyone not unless it is entirely above her powers. Otherwise, she is very strong and independent…and this is how she has been able to make DDI something amazing,” Aziz, her other childhood friend says.

On September 2015, Nafisa and her Dear Diary team organized a charity fashion show to raise funds for physically challenged people at Fort Jesus in Mombasa. All the participants were people living with a disability. The event was attended by hundreds of people, including Mombasa County gender and sports executive Mohammad Abbas and director of gender and youth department Esther Ingolo.

“When she first told me about the fashion show I have to admit I wasn’t really sure how it would turn out but it was a great success! I wasn’t surprised though, this is Nafisa. She has always been strong and firm and she never gives up. She is truly a source of inspiration,” Juzer, one of Nafisa’s relatives and close friend says.

“Just at the last moment, some of her colleagues at Dear Diary dropped out of the project. It became a panic moment because it was unexpected. My other brother called me that Nafisa needed us, so we rushed in to help. But as always Nafisa was positive and ensured that the fashion show worked out amazingly as planned,” Hussein recalls.

“The use of the word Outstanding would be undermining Nafisa. She is more than that.  Why? Usually when a person is challenged, they usually are either trying to help themselves or are looking at others to help them but Nafisa is out to help others.  I believe she would have done more of charity work if not impended by her challenges but again I don’t think an abled person would be doing so much she is doing right now. But then again you would only feel the pinch if you wear the shoes.

I also remember when we were in our early adulthood; she joined Leo Club where I was the chairman and would be game for any activity or picnics we would plan. Never once did we have to make any special arrangements for her. Whilst as usual a distance came in-between us till the time she joined the Leo Club. Again I moved to Nairobi and only got back when I joined DDI. For the past 3 years we are in touch almost on weekly basis with the common factor being the charity work.” –Muslim

As such, Nafisa was increasingly creating hope in many other people’s lives. She was restoring faith in humanity in many souls…



A freelance writer, journalist, poet and blogger venturing mainly in social and community issues, study and analysis of behaviour and life, and the plight of the under-dogs in the society. 'I feed on human stories.'

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