While completing field interviews in rural Mali, I met a young man with disabilities who was living in his parents’ home. As a child he contracted a disease which left him unable to walk. As my colleagues and I began to interact with him, he excitedly showed us a complex system of wires and old batteries that he had assembled. When he touched two of the wires together, several small lights illuminated across an old wooden board. A wide smile flashed across his face as he showed us this amazingly complex system he had designed from the simplest of materials.
As the conversation continued, we were informed that this young man had almost never left his parents’ home. When we asked the reasons for this, his mother immediately discussed the stigmatization and dangers he would face in the community. She explained that some may attribute his impairment to demonic forces and as a result their family would be the targets of extreme discrimination. (more…)