Demystifying dwarfism, the story of Mbabazi Martin
By Moureen Marilyn Ashaba, HUDIP – VOICE Project
Mbabazi Dorcus Martin (46) is a person of short stature who prefers to be referred to as, “little person”, however, the community he lives in dissents and inappropriately refers to him as “kateyito” meaning a small human. Medically, Martin suffers a condition called dwarfism. There is approximately 1 in 25,000 (0.004%) chance of a child with dominant dwarfism for two average height parents with no history of dwarfism. “I was the only little person out of 17 children from my mother. This doesn’t have to be a problem but growing up feeling different can be an isolating experience” Martin regrettably said.
The hardest part about being a little person is the discrimination that comes with the appearance of the person. Generally, people are not aware of the problems little people deal with on a daily basis, for example; to the community of Dwooli village in Hoima District, Mr. Martin is a mythical creature and to his biological mother, he is a product of “black magic” and did not deserve to live with the rest of her family.
Martin stressed the issue of being highly discriminated and treated unfairly because of his stature when he said, “I cannot count the number of times my mother slapped me for being born a “little person.” He added that, being neglected both at home, and at school by his friends and close family members made him feel like he was out of the frying pan and into fire, which has caused him a lot of emotional and psychological pain. The constant attention was exhausting, never stopped and sometimes it was even frightening. This attention has continued well into adulthood.
Martin further reported that, he has challenges in accessing even the basic things such as; door handles, ATMs; even finding the right shoe size is a problem. These are not things most people have to think too hard about because they are placed within easy arm’s reach for most adults of normal stature. In some cases, he has also been wrongly accused of fathering babies who are birthed with the same condition as his in the community where he lives, and he has had to prove he did not have relations with anyone’s wife.
Recently in the Local Council 3 elections in which Martin was an aspirant, the disregard and unfair treatment for persons with disability was so clear for all to see. His opponents spread all sorts of propaganda about his incapability to take up the position, as though height determined his capabilities as a person.
“How can a short person be our leader?”, the community grumbled endlessly.
The community sensitization and awareness campaigns about fair treatment of persons with disability by Hoima Union of Persons with disabilities (HUDIP) with funding from VOICE have been a breath of fresh air from Martin. The people of Hoima city are slowly realizing that persons with disabilities are human and deserve love and respect.
“Sensitization is changing people’s perceptions about people like me. I now feel more confident in the community because people now understand that dwarfism is a disability just like other forms of disability. I feel like any other human being, and I now know my rights.”, Martin observes.