Khana Akur Majak in Rumbek: “Disability is not inability, don’t let if define who you are"”

unmiss south sudan lakes state disability inclusion women's rights businesswoman activist

With her customized motorbike, Khana Akur Majak in Rumbek does not allow her disability to define her. Instead, she's a much-admired businesswoman and advocate of the rights of women and the disabled. Photos: Nina Zubovic Vignjevic/UNMISS

3 Dec 2022

Khana Akur Majak in Rumbek: “Disability is not inability, don’t let if define who you are"”

Nina Zubovic Vignjevic

32-year-old Khana Akur Majak from Lakes States wears many hats. She is a businesswoman, activist, wife, sister and daughter, but “disabled” is not a part of her identity. She refuses it to stop her from having a good, successful life.

While all her cousins and friends were playing outside, little Khana was stuck in bed, unable to walk. For three long years she never left the house. That’s when her grandmother put her foot down and promised Khana that her disability would not define her destiny and sent her to school. Khana graduated from both primary and secondary school and decided to be the voice of the voiceless, promising herself that she would succeed. And she did.

Mobility was her main challenge as she had to commute from a faraway area to reach town, but Khana’s husband could see her potential as a businesswoman and bought her a motorbike customized especially for disabled people. As a result, these days anyone walking the streets of Rumbek will sooner or later see her zoom by, on her way to catch up with one or more of her many responsibilities.

Starting out modestly by selling airtime for mobile phones, Khana had soon earned enough money to open a motel with ten rooms.

‘‘As my business was booming, I decided to expand the scope of my activities. I took a four-month-long sewing course, then I started designing and selling dresses,’’ she says.

Using her multiple skills and nous for business, Khana sustains not only herself but also her extended family. Yet she firmly believes that one should also contribute to the welfare of the community, which is why she has also found the time to be the deputy chairwoman of the Lakes State Women’s Association, and an avid activist for the rights of both women and physically impaired people.

‘’If we [disabled people] happen to be deprived of opportunities in one area of life it doesn’t mean that we cannot do something else. I was unable to walk, but look at me know, zipping around on my motorbike. Disability is not inability. Everyone must keep that in mind,’’ she affirms.

‘’I am requesting the government not to let disabled people behind. We should be included in decision making processes, politics, education and anything else, because we are more than competent to contribute,’’ Khana says, before repeating her appeal and mantra:

‘’Build schools for disabled kids so they can get a proper education and sustain themselves. Adjust roads, markets and other public places to disabled people. Let us participate and contribute to the community,’’ Khana appealed.

Hoping that peace will prevail in all of South Sudan, she wants disabled people in general and women in particular to be given the same opportunities as other citizens to influence the way her country moves forward, not least by being given serious consideration for political posts whenever the time for South Sudanese elections comes.

‘’In this country it is not easy to be a woman. Try to imagine being a disabled woman. I want to encourage all those who are struggling with prejudiced attitudes and customs and tell them that I have been there, and I have paved my own way,” Khana says.

She is keen to add that change does not happen by itself, but through efforts.

“For progress to be made, all of us physically impaired people have to keep our heads up, keep pushing and keep going. There is no obstacle we cannot overcome; we just have to try harder and not be afraid to ask for the support we rightfully deserve. Find that inner voice that will guide you and anything is possible.’’