Jude Lulenzi, 34 and his wife, Margaret Tuliwangula, 24, walked down the aisle at Christ’s Church, Nsuube, in Jinja district on September 22. The function was presided over by the Rev. Frederick Makka of Elim Church in Walukuba, Jinja.
Lulenzi and Tuliwangula, both Born-again Christians, are visually impaired. Lulenzi is a renowned vegetable farmer in Jinja. Charles Kakamwa talked to the couple about their relationship
I was born in 1976 in Nsuube village, Jinja, to Sarah Namutamba and Fred Isabirye (RIP). My father was a soldier in the army of president Idi Amin.
When he died during the war in 1978, my mother took over the mantle of looking after us. Sadly, my four siblings have since passed on.
I was born without any impairment and studied up to Senior Four at Jinja Senior Secondary School. While at Jinja SSS, I used to represent my school and the district in the post-primary athletics competitions. I was a champion in the 100, 200 and 400-metre sprints.
This earned me the post of sports prefect in 1994, while in S.4.
After O’level, I registered for vocational training at Iganga Technical Institute.
While there, I lived at my uncle, Wilfred Lukakamwa’s business premises in Iganga town. One morning, I found fetishes scattered at the door of my uncle’s retail shop.
It affected my eyes, but all the medical officers who examined me found nothing wrong then. Months earlier, my uncle (Lukakamwa), who was sponsoring my education, had succumbed to HIV/AIDS.
His business collapsed, while his property was attached and sold off by financial institutions, which he owed money.
How we met
One day, while listening to radio at my grandmother’s home in Nsuube, I heard a programme by the Jinja district union of people with disabilities.
The next day, I decided to visit their offices and during the interaction, they offered to link me to an institute that trains blind people in life skills.
In 2003, with the help of the union, I enrolled at Blind But Able Training Centre in Kyebando, Kampala, for a one-and-a-half-year course. I studied cookery, crafts-making, knitting, stenography, home management, brail writing and reading, as well as agriculture.
While there, I met Margaret Tuliwangula, who was doing a course in knitting. She was hardworking and caring. We became close and I realised how reliable she was.
Our relationship became intimate and before we realised, she was pregnant. Our daughter, Gloria Mirembe, is now six years old.
An active member in the movement for the blind told me she knew a girl she thought would make a good wife for me. She arranged a meeting for us, only to realise it was Tuliwangula, whom I already knew.
When we met, I accepted. When I informed my relatives, friends and pastors about it, some supported it, while others thought it was a miscalculation.
They reasoned that I should have looked for a woman who could see, to help me in times of difficulty, but I stood my ground.
Her other attractions to Tuliwangula
I have seen marriages of people with sight collapse. It is even worse when one of the partners has sight and the other is blind.
When a blind man marries a woman who is not blind, there is a likelihood that the woman will be misled by the public. Once she develops stigma, that is the end of the relationship.
Such women tend to mistreat their husbands because they lack knowledge of what we (blind people) go through, but when both of you are blind, you share the challenges and learn how to cope with them.
Planning the wedding
Many people were skeptical and wondered whether our marriage would succeed. However, we turned a deaf ear and concentrated on organising our ceremony. Since we have no stable source of income, we started planning last year and by
December, the budget was out.
Our target was to raise sh8m for both the introduction and the wedding ceremonies. From January, we embarked on a fundraising campaign among relatives, friends and church members. Through their contribution, we were able to raise about sh4m.
On September 15, Tuliwangula introduced me to her parents in Nyakirango village, Nyakiyumbu sub-county in Kasese district. I paid bride price and her parents blessed our marriage.
They had asked for 12 goats, but we settled for eight, which I paid immediately. Other items included a 6-inch matress, a pair of bed sheets, a blanket, a hoe, four gomesis, three kanzus and soda.
We travelled to Kasese on September 14 and stayed in a hotel until September 16, when the function was held.
Challenges in marriage
The biggest challenge is from the community, who tend to deny people with disabilities (PWDs) their rights. We are rarely given opportunity to say something during meetings. Some people usually shout derogatory remarks against us.
Although some of us have the skills to initiate income-generating projects, we normally lack capital because financial institutions do not trust us.
The years following the incident that led to my blindness have been the worst in my lifetime. I felt so bad because I could no longer do things I used to do by myself, I felt worthless that I even thought of taking my life.
But once I joined the Blind But Able Training Centre, my life changed. After training, I came out a changed person, able to perform any task.
Today, I move to church, which is one kilometre away from home, without anyone’s support. I also walk to Budondo sub-county headquarters, about 10km away, where I am a peer educator, using the white cane.
The white cane is the eye of a blind person. Whenever motorists and other road users see you with it, they will know you are blind and give way.
Plans for the future
My plan is to boost my agricultural projects by expanding my garden beyond the current 1.5 acres and supplying vegetables to markets beyond Jinja. I also intend to start poultry farming.
I want to construct rental houses so that I am assured of a steady monthly income. However, our biggest challenge is capital.
If we could get sh500,000 to purchase a knitting machine, it would be a big boost to our plans since both of us have the skills to operate it and can make sweaters, socks and children’s clothes, which have ready market.
I was born 24 years ago in Nyakirango village, Nyakiyumbu sub-county in Kasese district to Simon and Nyesi Bwambale. I am the third-born in a family of 13 children.
At the age of two, my younger brother and I were attacked by measles, which affected our sight. Whereas my brother is partially blind, I became totally blind.
I studied at Kasese Model Primary School up to P.7, before joining the Blind But Able Centre in Kyebando, Kampala, in 2003.
Meeting my husband
While studying knitting at the school, I met Lulenzi and we became friends. I was attracted to him because we had the same beliefs and interests. For instance, we are both Born-again Christians.
He often helped me with my academic work, so when our friend connected us, I did not find difficulty in relating with him.
Shocking my parents
My parents were shocked when I revealed my intentions to introduce Lulenzi, who was also blind.
To them, two blind people marrying was unheard of, but I allayed their fears. I told them it was possible and that Lulenzi was my choice.
Preparing for the introduction
After getting the blessings of my parents, we went ahead with the preparations. My parents organised meetings for the introduction at home in Kasese. Relatives and well-wishers contributed towards the function.
We had budgeted for sh3m, though the meeting raised only sh1m. With that, we organised a colourful ceremony.
It is disgusting when you go for antenatal services and nurses and midwives make comments, such as ‘why did she get pregnant yet she knows she is blind’. Don’t disabled people have a right to marry and bear children?
There are times when we look for certain things in the house and fail to find them because we are blind. Sometimes you have to call someone for help, but he teases you by keeping quiet and you cannot tell if he is near you.
I felt bad as a child when I realised that I did not have sight as my peers did. I remember, while in primary school, someone offered to take me to boarding school, but my parents declined because of my disability.
I thank God and my parents for enabling me to go to school. I came out an empowered person, with technical skills on which I can survive. I can make crafts and knit sweaters, socks and children’s clothes.
The only hindrance I have is the lack of a knitting machine.
Do you wish to help Lulenzi and his wife acquire a knitting machine, something which could turn their fortunes?
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