Assitema: Reclaiming independence
When Assitema contracted trachoma five years ago, at the age of 65, it destroyed her independence. The widowed grandmother, who had always farmed her own crops and looked after her home and family, found herself reliant on her children and grandchildren for the most simple of tasks.
“I stopped doing housework such as washing clothes, fetching water, cooking, collecting firewood or going to my farm. I could not see my grandchildren playing, participate in community activities, go to church alone, and could not even visit my children in their homes. I became dependent on everyone, because my eyes were stinging very much – the eyelashes were touching my eye and reducing my sight.”
The bulk of the responsibility fell on Assitema’s one single daughter, whose five siblings were married and busy looking after their own families. Even personal hygiene became a challenge.
“It was cumbersome going to the outside bathroom. For that I needed a rope, tied from my house to the bathroom. I used this rope to walk back and forth. The rope was my supporter and my guide. Without it I do not know what my life would be.”
Assitema consulted a local healer, but the treatment she was given had no effect. In desperation she resorted to cutting her eyelashes with a blade to relieve the pain. But her despair turned to hope the day her children heard that ophthalmic surgeons were visiting the area, and persuaded her to put herself forward for treatment.
“I hope this operation will bring good results – I have faith that it will. I wish to come back home and take care of myself, without relying on my grandchildren and children. And I have plans to make a small farm near my house.”