Disability isn’t inability —the life of the deaf boys in Jigjiga.

Jigjiga is my beloved city, it’s where I grew up, finished my upper school and where I learned my does and don’ts. I was 14 when I first arrived in Jigjiga and at the time the town was very small—almost twice smaller than it is today. The life of most people in Jigjiga is based on small businesses and public service provisions. The government here does little to help people. In the last 10 years of its existence, the expansion of houses and public services had increased the size of the city but bad governance had pushed people to the lowest point of life. The man who ran and ruled this city for the last ten years was a brutal dictator who tortured and beat people opposed to his harsh laws. Mass massacres, indiscriminate arrests, abuses and all types of human rights violations happened here but the city continued to thrive on its own. 

Much of the small scale businesses are feet on the streets. Street vendors and local sellers carry their daily business along the streets of Jigjiga. It’s a great place where sellers and buyers meet everyone.

Ahmed is a probably 13 years old deaf shoe cleaner who walks around the city to polish shoe in public places like cafeterias and other public gatherings everyday. He has his own big milk can where he puts his shoe cleaners stuff in. He goes up to everyone sitting and asks them if they would need their shoes cleaned. Most people have their shoes cleaned by Ahmed since he’s a disabled child who’s constantly working hard to put food on his family’s table. When he came over to us and asked if we could clean our shoes, one of our friends who was sitting accepted him and gave his shoes to be cleaned.

Ahmed cleaning shoes at the Shaaha Ninka tea shop.

Ahmed is a true example that disability isn’t inability. His inability didn’t prevent him from earning his food. Though he had problems with speaking, he asks people with a stammering voice and they immediately recognize him as a deaf which gives him an extra advantage over other shoe cleaners. When I saw him cleaning the shoes of my friend, I gave him a shot and liked to make a blog about him in the hope that it may inspire other kids who don’t choose to earn money for a work and instead—beg people for money along the streets.

A lot of youngsters are doing this job to survive. Many NGOs call this a “child labor and abuse” but isn’t it a choice you make when you and your family have nothing to survive? I say YES and I hope a lot of kids will learn to survive too. their safety is important but their survival is the most important of all. In this world where generosity is a lost value, I believe the idea that “survival of the fittest” is the final choice.

Till another blog on my city, I’m Ahmed and I will leave you with Allah’s care and protection!! STAY SAFE!!

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