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Photo: ILO/OIT Fábio Ribeiro
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COVID-19 and my disability won’t stop my search for work

My name is Linda Sarmento Manjazi, my mother's second daughter. I was born in the village of the 7th district of Chokwe in Mozambique. When I was two years old, I got sick. They suspect that it may have been polio.

My parents took me to a hospital in Xai-xai, in Chicumabane, but they couldn't solve the situation. At the time this vaccination thing was rare. It's not like now, where a child is vaccinated at birth, then, as time goes by, when it's his turn to be vaccinated, it comes in doses. At the time, there was no such thing. So it seems that's what made me like this. The main difficulty was that I wanted to study, but I couldn’t walk.

It wasn't until I was thirteen that my parents put me in school. I started a little late because my parents didn't think I would make it to school as I walked on my knees.  But I walked. My sister would lift me up, take me to school, and we would come back together.

It was difficult to move on to secondary school because it was a bit far. I had to interrupt my studies for almost five years but I did grade 11, and the following year grade 12.

In 2003, I started knocking on doors, thinking I was going to get a job, but I didn't.

I worked as a literacy tutor and taught at Chauleca school in 2016 and some white women volunteers too. I forget the name of the organisation they were in. But I taught them Changana (native language of Mozambique), to earn a little money.

Last year I did a small job with my sisters, but when the pandemic started, that ended. I got really upset, I even lost my strength. That's why everything is disorganised in my home. Because even to get up today, it wasn't easy. As soon as I got the news that the job was over, it wasn't easy for me.

Now I don't do anything.

As I'm not working, it's not so easy to take care of the house, because I have to ask someone to help me, and you have to pay them the little you have.

Linda Sarmento sits outside in front of her house with her two daughters.

My daughters like to study. The first one told me that at school she is the best of all. She usually gets the highest marks. Even today, she told me "mama I got 18 in mathematics". I cry sometimes when they ask me to buy something and I can't give it to them. It’s difficult because I am their father and their mother at the same time.

© ILO/OIT Fábio Ribeiro

I started receiving benefits in the 2000s. It makes a difference compared to how it was before. Because before I had to depend on my father, but my mother was my father’s fourth wife. We were many in the family. There were about 22 children from the same father.

This money from INAS (National Institute of Social Action) helps, because even though it’s very little I can still buy some things I need, for example food, or even to pay for water and electricity. It helps.

The INAS benefit is 540 meticais (8.50USD) per month. It’s gone up in addition to the amount we used to get.

You can't say that "it's not much". Because the person who has given it has opened their heart and thought that this had to be given to me.

It's worth taking the amount, and then to sit down and think, “What can I buy? What is missing here at home?” Even if I can't cover everything. But I really try to buy the main things I need.

Linda Sarmento sits on the ground outside her house and repairs a puncture to the inner tube of one of the wheels of her wheelchair.

I am used to repairing punctures on my wheelchair.

© ILO/OIT Fábio Ribeiro

Sometimes I buy a tyre to fix my wheelchair, sometimes charcoal, or firewood, food, or I ask someone to help me tidy my house.  I also use it to help my daughters at school, to pay for their school registration, buy notebooks...

Even if it is little... A thing that is given to you can never be little.

But it could be more too. It's just that, saying "ahh this amount is not enough" doesn't look good.

Maybe I could explain to them that that the value is little, that it should be increased because things are expensive to buy. It is very difficult. Imagine buying a little bag of flour for 350 meticais (5.50USD). There's nothing left after you do that.

To buy oil, or even cabbage, you will only be able to buy for maybe two or three days with what is left, because times are also different now. With this pandemic problem, things are very expensive and many people cannot work. So they want to earn something as well.

Linda Sarmento in a food store with a sales clerk.  Food is stacked on shelves.

I use my benefits money to buy food, but things are more expensive now because of the pandemic.

© ILO/OIT Fábio Ribeiro

When my girls are older I would like them to get a job. Maybe they would support me. Because as I'm getting older, in a short time, I won't be able to do much. Because even to walk like that on my knees, it's a serious problem.

When I get old, I'll still want to eat, and if I'm like this, where will food fall from? No, it never falls from the sky. It only rains so that we can weed.

My dream for the future is to get an odd job and work, or if I could save a little money, make a few rooms to rent, to earn a little money. If I got a little more money, I would buy some products and sell them. That's what I was thinking of doing.

Even if a person is disabled it does not imply that the person has to stand by, arms crossed, no. You have to get up, go in search of a thing. Because it's not the thing that will come looking for you, no. 

Linda Sarmento ManjaziJobseeker

To stand still is to die. It's worth one's while to move in order to have something. Because actually standing still is dying, yes.

I am brave. I am courageous. I am patient. Courageous, patient, and social... yeah!  I will get up, go in search of what I need to do, so that I can get more strength to work, to support my two daughters.

I can say that even if a person is disabled it does not imply that the person has to stand by, arms crossed, no. You have to get up, go in search of a thing. Because the thing will come looking for you, no. What you want in life is to have hope, because nothing comes at once, no. Each thing has its own time.

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