Stopping Stigma, Improving Lives
When Ténimba was 18 months old, she was afflicted by polio, which left her paralyzed. By the age of 10, Ténimba had lost both her parents. As a disabled orphan, Ténimba was deprived of basic care, opportunities for education, and excluded from any family or community life. She grew up on the margins of society. At age 17, Ténimba was raped by her cousin and became pregnant. Her cousin died soon after, but he had denied the child until his death. With no resources or support, Ténimba was left to raise her child alone.
An estimated 10 percent of people living in developing countries struggle with disabilities, like Ténimba. People with disabilities are not only faced with the challenges presented by their condition, but are often discriminated against in the community, the workplace, and even among family and friends.
“If Jigi ma Tignè had been broadcast when I was 17 years old, I would not have had an unwanted pregnancy, because I would have known how to protect myself… Today I don’t consider myself to be society’s garbage any more, and I won’t let others treat me like garbage.”
To help create a culture of support and acceptance for people living with disabilities, PMC produced and broadcasted the radio serial drama, Jigi ma Tignè (“Hope Is Allowed”). The 74-episode radio show, which was aired over the national broadcast channel and 50 community radio stations throughout Mali, also addressed family planning, HIV/AIDS, women’s empowerment, and the harmful traditional practice of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C).
After spending years struggling to provide for herself and her daughter and living as an outcast in her village, Ténimba decided to leave her native village of Samantra to stay with her older sister in another village. While living with her sister, Ténimba listened to Jigi ma Tignè and was inspired by the character, Dado. Dado was also disabled, yet through perseverance and community support, she was able to open up her own boutique. Dado’s character demonstrated that despite the additional challenges she is faced with in life because of her disability, she can contribute to society and lead a positive life. Through Dado’s strength and perseverance, the audience learned that people living with disabilities can make positive contributions to society.
“I have the same story as Dado, and I don’t see any reason that I can’t succeed, just like she has been able to succeed. I now have a positive self-image, and I am sure that others have a positive image of us disabled people because of Dado’s example. I feel that others look at me differently now, and that gives me hope to go forward.”
The program also emphasized the importance of providing all people – including those with disabilities – with opportunity and support, and that all people, including those with disabilities, have basic human rights that must be upheld. Inspired by Dado, Ténimba decided to pursue her dream of owning her own hair salon. She has enrolled her daughter in school and hopes to give her a better life. Ténimba also plans to form an association of disabled female entrepreneurs. Jigi ma Tignè quickly became a mainstay in the lives of millions throughout Mali and even beyond Mali’s borders. At the end of the program, research results reported that listeners were 3.3 times more likely than non-listeners to have spoken with someone they know about rights of people with disabilities.
Jigi ma Tignè not only changed Ténimba’s life forever, but the storyline on disability has helped to uplift those living with disabilities and reduce the stigma associated with having a disability throughout communities.