Many Thought Their Daughter Was a Curse
From the moment she was born, Birasasira was proud of her daughter.
“When I saw my baby, I just thanked God. I wasn’t shocked because I had never seen a disabled person before. I loved what came out of my womb, that which God created within me,” says Birasasira.
Grace was born missing three of her limbs, but from the outset she had the fierce protection of a mother’s love. Sadly Birasasira’s acceptance wasn’t shared by the wider family. Hearing of Grace’s condition, Birasasira’s in-laws were quick to reject the beautiful newborn — in their rural Rwandan community, physical difference is viewed with suspicion. In the days after Grace’s birth, their rejection became more extreme.
They demanded that Grace be killed.
Birasasira and Grace’s experience of disability discrimination is echoed in many of the developing countries where Compassion works. Globally there are an estimated 1 billion people with disabilities — 80 percent of whom live in developing countries. Those with disabilities are often the poorest in their community and face multiple barriers that stop them from realizing their rights and living with dignity.*
Because Birasasira and her husband rejected the claims that Grace was a bad omen, the young couple vowed to do everything in their power to protect her. And yet still the family pressures grew. Grace’s uncles began to threaten to murder her father if he did not kill his daughter.
Birasasira suspects that what happened next was a follow-through on that threat. Grace’s father was murdered during a break-in at a neighbor’s house where he was working as a security guard. “We think the robbers were organized by his brothers,” Birasasira whispers, her voice wavering.