A young girl sitting in a wheelchair fist bumps her mother who squats beside her in Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso

Mother and daughter break down stigma of growing up with a disability

Kotime and her mother are the definition of resilient. They have braved disability, war, exodus and rejection by their family to fight for a better life.

When Kotime was 9, she suddenly lost the use of her legs. At the same time, her family was forced to flee their home to escape violence. Kotime and her family have received support from Humanity & Inclusion’s teams in Burkina Faso.

Before her village in the Sahel became the target of increasingly frequent jihadist attacks, Kotime's family enjoyed a peaceful life. Then, in 2019, fate took a turn for the worse. Just as Kotime's condition suddenly deteriorated, the village came under renewed attack. Only weeks before her family fled and took refuge in the north central region of Burkina Faso, she found herself unable to walk.

Mariam, Kotime's mother, has fought for her daughter against all the odds.

“I stayed in the hospital for about three months while my daughter was being treated,” Mariam recalls. “My in-laws were threatening to disown me because I’d left my home to treat a child who might never walk again. They also said Kotime was not my only child. So, I had to bring her back again. Then one night, armed groups entered our village, killed people, and stole our animals, so we had to leave. It was extremely hard for me because I was pregnant, and I fled with Kotime and her sister in my arms."

In seeking safety, the family now faces new challenges.

“When we got here, to feed ourselves, we sold all the animals we had left,” Mariam explains. “We've been here for a long time. My husband doesn’t work. Now and again, I collect sand to sell, or I go to town to wash clothes to feed my children and buy soap. Sometimes we get help from the government and NGOs. That's how I met the Humanity & Inclusion team, at a disability awareness event. They spotted Kotime. I’d just given birth. I was carrying my baby on my back and Kotime in my arms. I would take her to places of worship and pray, hoping she might walk again.”

Kotime, 11, has never been to school.

“Kotime has never attended classes. When my daughter was 7 years old, the age children start school, the schools in our village were already closed because it wasn’t safe. Two years later, she fell ill, and her lower limbs were paralyzed," Mariam explains.


Working alongside Kotime and her family

Humanity & Inclusion’s Inclusive Humanitarian Action project team has supported Kotime and her mother in helping their family understand Kotime’s disability and the importance of rehabilitation.

“To start with, HI’s awareness-raising officer came to talk to us to learn more about Kotime's situation. She referred us to the functional rehabilitation center, but my in-laws were against the idea,” Mariam says. “HI did everything they could to convince them and offered to mediate between us. The officer came back to meet my husband’s brothers, but my father-in-law wasn’t there. When he heard the news, he set his mind firmly against it. It took more meetings with my family and a visit from the director of the rehabilitation center and a religious figure to convince my in-laws! But today everything has changed, at last!”

Kotime couldn’t wait to start her twice-weekly rehabilitation sessions. Humanity & Inclusion also equipped her with a wheelchair, walking frame and leg braces. Now, she can join in everyday family activities again and can even take a few steps on her own. Mariam no longer has to carry Kotime from place to place and is able to spend more time with her other children.

"The wheelchair’s changed Kotime's life - and mine too! It means I can take her everywhere without feeling worn out, and thanks to her rehabilitation sessions Kotime has begun to walk again, although she can’t go far. Life is returning to normal,” Mariam says. “She can help me with the dishes, and best of all she can go out and play with her friends again. They bring her home after they’ve finished playing. I’m really proud of her!”

This testimony was collected by Pascaline Nongbzanga Tapsoba, who is responsible for Humanity & Inclusion’s community campaigning and inclusion work in Burkina Faso.

Header image: Kotime and her mother, Mariam, fist bump each other. Copyright: Olivier Czar Katona/HI
Inline image: Kotime plays with other children from her community. Copyright: Olivier Czar Katona/HI