Zainab Slarmie: A Personal Story

By Zainab Slarmie (unedited)

It is the month of June in which we traditionally celebrate the youth of South Africa. We received this story from Zainab Slarmie, a young woman with a disability and were touched by her message which is the story of many youth with disabilities in South Africa. – Editor

I was in a car accident in 2010 and my spinal cord ruptured. I won’t be explicit about my injuries but all I can say my pain made me stronger. We all have struggles in our daily lifestyles and we can’t compare our struggles to another person’s struggles. As a young person I had to grow up in 2 weeks of being in a coma. Waking up to someone who tells you that you won’t be able to walk because you were in a car accident can be hard on one but I took it as a stress-free situation and just accepted it in an instant. I had to go through the last few months of being in Grade 8 and my first year of being in high school and missing most of it out due to being hospitalized and had to complete the entire year in a few months. I passed well and proceeded to the next grade, that year was tough for me.


A young girl in a wheelchair can be overwhelming for many children at a normal school, but me, I considered myself as also being normal. There were kids who did not understand that concept and they bullied me. I know that everyone goes through that stage and it is very tough because as a young generation we may face many challenges in our lives such as drugs, abuse and violence in the community and some may also not have stable lifestyle that could impact school performances. I did not let that me down. I was bullied every day being harassed by these learners was a unpleasant experience and I admit I cried, but then I tried to take that situation and turn it into a positive where I felt that I want to be someone and this would not get me down. I got through these years of traumatizing experiences by just ignoring the bullies but I take it as a positive one and that is why I completed my Matric year in 2014 with a Bachelors Pass and I went to study my passion that was Fashion Designing, Textiles studies and Drawings and while I was studying I was working as well.

I passed my driver’s license in 2016 and I can drive myself where I want to independently.

I then took a different root and wanted to start on my career doing Teaching for Foundation Phase Learners because I love teaching children and I know I would be a good example of positivity in their lives and also then doing a computer course while studying teaching. I made it clear to myself that I believe in myself and that I’m a strong person who can overcome any obstacles in life. I did motivational speaking for woman forums and Earth Child Project at schools. I was an Director of First Impressions and Tech Assistant of a real estate company.


I believed in myself so much and I believed in true love will come my way because my mom and dad were happily married and they were a good example of true love. I got married to my husband in 2017 and we are still happily married since then.

The most difficult time I would say was losing my mother in 2018 with all the obstacles I overcame this was the most difficult.  She was my Queen she took care of me most of the time and gave me advice. I spent most of my time with her and we shared everything. I started doubting myself at this point because what would I do without my mother. I ended up in hospital due to severe anxiety and panic disorder because I was lost I was down and then I lost my job just after that.

I had to pick myself up and move forward because she taught me to be tough and strong because I have a voice to motivate and help people. I told myself that I will use her legacy and still make her proud. I am almost completing my teaching degree and I know she would be smiling down on me and the strong woman she raised is doing what she taught me. She raised 3 strong independently woman and I’m glad to call them my sisters who were always there for me whenever I needed them.

Going straight to the point. I was put off by a company because I am not capable of doing the work that they do. I got threatened by a co-worker who cut a piece of my hair off.  She told the boss to fire me because I did not want to leave the job that I came and work hard at every day.  I still don’t have a job since then and all the jobs I apply to are not wheelchair friendly or either I am a risk factor to the company.  There is nothing wrong with me my ability is stronger than my disability.


Standard response letter to employment applications
I’ve been receiving these emails constantly since being on a job search. The feedback of these emails have been disappointing because as they state on these websites “people with disabilities are encouraged to apply”. If so, then why are they refusing us?.  I think it should be brought into consideration into every work place in South Africa. We ARE capable of working, some of us are qualified, we ARE hardworking, we CAN do anything we want to achieve. We that are being denied into workplaces could make a difference in workplaces.  The question is would we be in the way of you, would we harm you in anyway, would we make you feel uncomfortable. We just don’t understand why we have to sit at home and not use our talents, our successes, our qualifications to make a difference or even to help others.  The sad thing is that we can do whatever we want to but we are not given the opportunity to do what we love or do what we can do. The fact that everyone worries about being disabled more than disabled people do. I won’t let people “dis” my “ability” to do something I want to do.I am proud of who, other people should be proud too.  Think about it like this…What would you do if you were in our position and how would you feel?


Are disabled people incapable of working?

You have talent, you have ambition and you work hard for what you want in life because we can’t blame the circumstances we live in we have to rise above it. This is something that’s gets me through anything to make me believe that I Can! I Will! I’m going to do it. Don’t stop when you tired. Stop when you are done. I believe in you so you can too.

The ability we have is stronger than our disability.

This is the response I get every day. It should come to an end…

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