- RESILIENT. Jhazirah Namukose is a 20-year-old para-badminton athlete.
- It is a sport where people living with physical disabilities try to find fulfillment of their dreams, writes GEORGE KATONGOLE.
What is the hardest thing about this sport?
Sometimes, the shuttlecock flies right in front of me and I want to hit it back but I miss the target.
What are some of the joys of playing?
When I meet people with physical disabilities, it helps me accept myself. I was able to put on my first pair of shoes when I began playing for the national team. The shoes were a donation from coach Mark (Sekyondwa). Previously, I was moving across the court barefooted.
Couldn’t you afford to buy shoes?
I have always had the mentality that I cannot wear shoes, so I never bought any. However, we have been told to change our negative attitudes. At first, wearing the shoes was uncomfortable, but now I am used to them. Also, para-badminton is an expensive sport so some of the equipment costs a lot of money.
How did you lose the function of your limbs?
When I was born, I could walk normally, but a polio vaccine was administered the wrong way and my right leg had to be operated on in 2002.
Did you feel discriminated against?
My condition always made me feel small. I did not like to see people or let them see me. I was a loner and I never liked sharing with anyone.
What was your turning point?
Meeting coach Mark at Sharing Youth Centre Nsambya gave me a new lease on life. He encouraged me to join sports and now, I want to live my life positively. I started playing para-badminton in January 2018 ahead of the Uganda International and African championship. I am in the Standing Lower (SL) 4 category.
What else do you do?
I dropped out of school in Senior Four, so I do not have a formal job. I am a volunteer with BRAC Uganda in Kisaasi.
What is your dream in this sport?
If I can play as well as Bello (Nigeria’s Bello Oyebanji, the top player in Africa), then all the pain in my past can be history.
Who do you live with?
I live in my parents’ home in Kisaasi. They returned to the village and left me with my two siblings. I have been providing for my siblings since 2010.