Nas – Chairperson of the South African Blind Youth Organization

This was our first day in Pretoria. We were meant to meet a young woman named Nas, who we met at the Botanical Gardens. The plan to film there was rendered impossible due to our lack of a permit.

We managed to convince Nas and her mother to take us to their home, and we were glad to have gone there because we would not have been able to get a real sense of what kind of a life she lives without seeing it.

Nas lives in a house in Laudium, Centurion, with her mother, daughter, and her brother along with his family.

During her interview she actually expressed the difficulty of being a large family in a small house. However, the love they have for each other is what binds them.

Nas is a young woman,  who is blind and is also an activist for persons with disabilities. On top of all this, she is a career woman, a mother and a life partner to the father of her daughter.

One of moments that touched me was when she spoke about what it’s like to be a blind mother. She expressed that there are limitations to what she can do with her daughter, however, she appreciates all the ways that they connect. When she mentioned the mess involved when baking blind with a toddler, I found it charming that she is able to speak so nonchalantly about her disability. Her acceptance of her life the way it is was truly admirable, but she is one of those women that knows what she deserves and is unhappy with the way persons with disabilities are often neglected and unaccounted for.

She also mentioned how classism also affects people with disabilities differently. I often think that highly privileged people often lack real social intelligence, because of their careless assumption that the people that struggle in life do not realize their are being looked down on.

Or maybe its the privilege of not having to care about how you are perceived no matter how you behave.

I see Nas as a natural born leader, because if given the power, I’m sure she would prioritize equity in society.

Now let’s talk more about Nas’s sight. In fact it was one of the first things she spoke to us about. As someone who has her sight, you expect that speaking about one’s blindness would cause a flood of negative emotion or would open some kind of fragile wound. Do you know what Nas said to us?

“Only the chosen ones.”

There is a special kind of beauty in Nas’ way. She seems to come of as shy in the beginning, however it isn’t the case at all because the things that she says are placed effortlessly but with intent. Being shy would mean that she is riddled with some kind of fear, but she didn’t have that fear. I think that her being is some kind of a metaphor for peace. In several mythologies, the blind are blessed with a super natural ability. It usually has something to do with being able to see more beyond what can be seen using eye sight. Like a powerful mind’s eye. This, combined with Nas’ physical beauty is what makes her seem enchanted.

I don’t remember how, but we ended up speaking about the father of her child. She expressed that he is not at all what she had imagined when she would fantasize about that man of her dreams. She originally had two things in mind; a Tswana man, and a man who isn’t blind. She did not get either.

She said something that every woman can relate to, as the gender that appreciates tenderness. She wanted to be with a man who isn’t blind because she, like every other woman, also wanted to be told that she is beautiful. Some people think feminism doesn’t allow for such superficial wishes, but it isn’t superficial at all. Yes, we want to be appreciated for much more than our physical appearance, however a part of romance is physical (with only a few exceptions). When you tell a woman she is beautiful, you contribute to the waves of joy in your environment.

Nas is A 26-year-old single mother and LLB student who is visually impaired, living with her mother, two-year-old daughter and older brother in a township. Nas is the Chairperson of the South African Blind Youth Organization and has spent the greater part of her twenties advocating for service delivery and inclusion of people with disabilities. She is also an activist working with youth who have disabilities, assisting them in getting educated and employed but has not been able to do this during lockdown. She works a full-time job at a payroll company but has not managed to work during lockdown because her company still has not sent her assistive equipment, she feels unvalued and unprioritized because of this. Despite not working she has been earning her salary, but this only worsens her feelings of her input being undervalued. She is constantly stressed and has had to stop her studies as she cannot afford it because of the financial strain that the lockdown has put on her and her family.

Focus:
From Nas we want to look into the challenges of working from home, the way in which people with disabilities are not being prioritized in work spaces, and in the safety measures being taken to mitigate the crisis, she spoke about the difficulty of traveling for a blind person who relies on touch to move around, she has not really been able to go anywhere during the lockdown because of the high risk, stating that the sanitizer foot presses are not user friendly either. We want to look into how structurally they are excluded as well as what needs must be met while looking at what possible solutions could remedy some of the exclusion.
Her relationship with her daughter has been a light and source of strength for her during this difficult time, we want to look into how they’re bond has deepened and show the beauty that motherhood is bringing into her life despite everything she is going through. Nas was also a vocal SRC member during her time in university, the first black woman with a disability to hold a post in the University of Pretoria SRC. She fought for people with disabilities to be included in sport and is now having to bring up the same fighting spirit for her to get the equipment she needs from work in order to work from home.

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