The Sunday News
Sandisiwe Gumbo, Sunday Life Reporter
IN a remarkable display of resilience and determination, Ratidzo Muchairi (40) from Bulawayo has defied odds to became the first visually impaired female television presenter.
Her life story is a testimony of an unbreakable spirit of endurance in the face of difficulties. For some time, she lived as a victim of gender-based violence (GBV) where she endured a decade-long abusive marriage that came to an end in 2013 when her husband left for South Africa when she had turned blind and never returned until his untimely death in 2018.
The relentless abuse she suffered not only left her with severe emotional scars but physical ones as well as it also resulted in life-altering consequences, including migraines and blindness.
“I was depressed most of the time in my marriage, I was exposed to violence a lot. I stayed put regardless of the ill-treatment and today that is my biggest regret,” she said.
“I stayed quiet and would not mention the situation to anyone. This prolonged exposure I had to violence changed my life forever. It affected my health, I got migraine headaches which were so severe that I would collapse and remain unconscious for days.”
Muchairi sought medical attention for her migraine headaches but tragically, while focusing on treating the migraine, the veins responsible for carrying electrical signals to her eyes collapsed resulting in an irreversible damage and subsequent blindness.
“I was down for two years and lived a grounded life. It was hard to adjust for me and my family, considering that we never had any disability within the family. I used to bath when people wanted me to bath, I used to eat when people wanted me to eat, I was no longer independent,” she said.
In 2015, she went at the Braille Section at the Bulawayo Public Library where she underwent intensive rehabilitation to adapt to her new reality as a visually impaired person.
Motivated by her own experiences, Muchairi embarked on a mission to empower visually impaired individuals through technology and information.
She initiated a campaign called “Access to information for the blind”, advocating for improved access to information for the visually impaired people through phones and computers.
She encouraged fellow visually impaired individuals to learn how to use technology effectively and managed to obtain computers from fundraising programmes.
“My time at the Braille Section revolutionised my life, it was like I had started to live in a whole new world. I came to accept my condition and regained confidence. I felt normal regardless of my blindness as I started to interact with people again,” Muchairi mentioned.
Driven by her new-found passion for empowering others, Muchairi pursued education at Harare Poly despite her visual impairment and focused on journalism.
In 2016, Muchairi joined one of the most viewed programmes named Proudly Able, which broadcasts on ZBC every Monday at 6pm. The program seeks to empower and to inspire others and raise awareness about the capabilities of the disabled. She has worked with the likes of Siniwe Kademaunga and Greatman.
“I am doing it out of passion as I do not benefit financially from it, I work with my crew and travel to different cities to shoot episodes with people who have different disabilities. My plea is that we get sponsors to fund the show.
“I want to change the view that the society has on blind people, people think by being blind you’re automatically a beggar. If it was for me all the blind beggars would be removed. Those people have talents that could change their lives. The programme seeks to locate the disabled people who are able to work regardless,” she said.
In addition to her groundbreaking television appearances, Muchairi also has a small business of selling farm produce such as potatoes, onions and vegetables that she buys from Mbare in Harare.
She is able to travel to and from Harare at any time as the Government recognises her community.
They travel for free using the Zupco buses. She relies on the support and assistance of the connections she has made throughout her journey to help her with stocking her business.
“My advice to all women is to never stay in a toxic relationship. It is better to remain single and be judged by the society than to be abused and live a miserable life,” she said.
“But at this point, I am happy, maybe it was God’s plan so that I can inspire the disabled. I am happy with my life and my children. I want to be a widow all my life.”
Muchairi has defied societal expectations and shattered barriers.
In future the strong willed Ratidzo Muchairi is hoping to have her very own vegetable shops across Bulawayo.