'Proudly Zimbabwean, proudly disabled'

HARARE - Broadcaster and poet, Soneni aka Thandeka Gwizi says she is proudly Zimbabwean and proudly disabled.

Soneni’s wish is to become an ambassador of women with disability.

And there is every reason why she should be so excited about who she is and what she has achieved.

Soneni is the 2012 JCI Zimbabwe —10 Outstanding Young Persons of Zimbabwe Award winner for Contribution to Children, World Peace and Human Rights.

“I have been crowned as the Top Outstanding Young Person in Zimbabwe for 2012 and I am happy for the recognition which will also inspire young women with disability.

“What makes my achievement more prestigious is that I was chosen among hundreds of able-bodied young entrepreneurs.”

Soneni believes being accorded the award, previously won by Econet owner Strive Masiyiwa, was a nod for her sheer hard work as a broadcaster and motivational speaker.

“In Zimbabwe there has not been any disabled person who can inspire youngsters. I want to be the one and inspire young disabled women who want to excel in life,” said Soneni.

She said being disabled is expensive.

“Yes, it is expensive to be disabled because where I was supposed to walk, I hire a cab.

“There are a lot of things that able-bodied people can do, which I can’t and have to pay for.”

Broadcasting is her passion as she is able to tell stories through the radio.

Between 2009 and 2010 she was producer/presenter for On the Move and Morning Mirror radio talk-show programme on ZBC’s Sfm Radio Station.

Since last year, she has been a producer/presenter for Disability Issues radio programme on the same radio station.

She believes in using the media to influence gender and disability rights which will create a safe place for all. “Everyone has a voice on this planet!”

Soneni added: “My radio programmes revolve around disability issues. They are educative and guided by what is happening around the communities and the life of those disabled.”

The poet likes to present humour, but with a bias towards the disabled and believes “one of the best things to pack in life’s survival kit is a sense of humour.”

As a poet, she also uses the spoken word to advance her cause for disabled women.

“While I work on projects that promote the disabled’s voice, I also enjoy the challenge to work with those without disability.”

Soneni is a natural motivational speaker and travels around local schools talking about the plight of the disabled and how she managed to fight discrimination to reach where she is today.

Everyone was born with all the unique abilities, knowledge and talent needed “for your mission in life, you do not need to compare yourself with anyone else, just be yourself and start shinning.

“Obstacles can’t stop you, problems can’t stop you. Most of all, other people can’t stop you! The only one who has the power to stop you is you.”

Soneni is a member of Zimbabwe Writers Association and OI World and Voices in Colour.

In 2010, she was awarded a media award for reporting on gender by Federation of African Media Women
Zimbabwe while in 2011, she was Federation of African Media Women Zimbabwe Gender Sensitive Media Awards Nominee — Broadcast Category.

As a woman with a disability she believes breast cancer is the most common in women.

“And living with a disability does not make you immune.

“During Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, I learnt the facts about breast cancer and why screening should be a regular part of your health care. In the United States, women with a disability aged 50-74 reported a lower rate of mammography than women without a disability of the same ages (78,1 percent vs. 82,6 percent)."

“Studies also show higher rates of death related to breast cancer among women with a disability, even when diagnosed at the same stage as women without a disability,” said Soneni who advised that regular mammograms can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer.

As a motivational speaker she has been to several schools imparting her wisdom, encouraging those with disabilities to stand up and be counted.

“The moment you think of giving up, think of the reason why you held so long,” she advised.

Soneni, like any young woman could not say how old she is. “Do not worry about my age!”

As a parting word, she quoted an unnamed source who once remarked: “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’.”

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