Mariamu Staford has started her own business, which is no small thing for a young woman from a rural village in Tanzania. Especially a young woman who has been mocked, rejected, assaulted, and left for dead – a woman living with albinism.
Growing up as a child with white skin in a black community set Mariamu apart from a young age. Although her parents and relatives accepted her and treated her like their other children, things were different at school. Her classmates made fun of her. Some were afraid. Her low vision caused problems in reading what was on the board and she became increasingly discouraged. By age 12, she was skipping classes and finally dropped out altogether. When her father found out, he was very angry. Education, he knew, was his child’s only hope of breaking the cycle of poverty and ensuring a better future. Still, if his daughter refused to go to school, she would have to do her share of the back-breaking labour on the family farm. He bought her a hoe.
For many years, life was relatively uneventful on the family farm until the night that would change 28-year-old Mariamu’s life dramatically.
Miriaumu was sleeping beside her two-year-old son when a man entered her bedroom, hacked off both of her arms, and fled. Thankfully, her little boy, sleeping beside her, was unharmed, but Mariamu spent several weeks in hospital. Unable to hug her young son, she also struggled to answer him when he asked her, “Mom, where did you put your arms?”
With help from Under the Same Sun, and a generous donation of prosthetic arms, Miriamu was able to attend a vocational boarding school. Since graduating, she has started her own business while continuing to upgrade her skills by taking additional courses in commercial knitting and sewing. She and her son benefit from the security of living on campus. She makes shawls, sweaters, skirts and dresses on a commercial loom, which she then sells. Soon, as her business grows, she will be making school uniforms for many of the children with albinism in the UTSS education program.
It turns out Mariamu’s father was right. Thanks to UTSS, education has provided Mariamu with a better future.