Bong: “Visual Impairment Is Not Inability”

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Feeling elated, Tenneh W. Tokpah a visually impaired widow with four children, affectionately called “Ma Tenneh” is going against the odds to sustain her family.

This young woman from north-central Liberia has been making huge contributions to the local soap industry in her community despite her condition and is upbeat that she’s able to do things that even people with sight cannot do.

“This is just a sure way of telling the world that ‘Disability is not inability,” Tenneh said.

Based in Gbarnga, which is situated 194.2miles from Monrovia, Tenneh Tokpah is currently impacting her community regularly.

She has been conducting training for organizations in soap making, and production of chloride, Listerine (mouth wash), and shampoo among others. According to her, she feels inspired to work for herself, and to impact the lives of others who do not have idea or skill.

“Sometimes local NGOs in Bong, including the Bong County Disabled Organization, the United Women for Development, and several other organizations call me to teach their various groups.” She noted.

This visually impaired lady expressed happiness that she is endowed with the gifts she has from God.

“Besides Bong County, I am most time called to Margibi and Lofa Counties to teach; at times I serve as lecturer or facilitator at some major workshops for one week,” she narrated, and added, “so I am very happy for that.”

She sometimes produces fifty pieces of soap a day and the proceeds from the sales are used to pay her four children’s tuition and fare for them.

Some people have taken Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) to be beggars in street corners, the situation with Tenneh is among few of the cases of people with disabilities who have been making the difference by being on top of her game to help contribute to the development of their communities.

Born in Kpasawalasue, Lofa County in northwestern Liberia, Tenneh grew up as a bright kid amongst her peers until the first Liberian civil war when she was forced along with her parents to move to Guinea. She is said to have lost her sight one week after their arrival in Guinea.

Despite her visual impairment, Tenneh withstood the test of time by pursuing a vocational skill after she had already completed the elementary division in Liberia. Her eagerness to learn pushed her to graduate with an honor from the JRS Training Institute in the Republic Guinea, having gone through all of the required courses.

Back to Liberia in 2006, Tenneh W. Tokpa has continued to use the knowledge acquired in exile to making living for her and children. She explained that her husband left her, and she has been left with the full responsibilities to take care of the Children. Annie Yarkpawolo, one of the beneficiaries of Tenneh’s training, says because of the skills impacted to her, she is now considered in her home as a provider; helping her husband to fare for the home. “I no longer sit and wait on my husband to give me money; when he has it, he gives it to me but when it is not there, I simply use what I earn from my daily sales,” Madam Yarkpawolo said.

She said Tenneh did well for not only her, but for several other women. “We can join soap “susu” every time and each person give twenty-five pieces every month. [Susu is a local model of a modern cooperative.] And each month, one of us can benefit from the proceeds of that month until we correct the circle of our contributions.

So do you imagine how many dollars we can get?” The skills training passed unto her by Tenneh, Madam Yarkpawolo explained, has helped her family as they are no longer depending on her husband alone for everything unlike before.