Madi Njie is an outspoken journalist and an amputee. He now writes for the Daily Observer, after his first newspaper The Independent was brutally closed down by the Gambian government for articles that criticised the president (in power for over 20 years) and his policies.
Madi lost his leg when he was 12, while helping on his family’s farm during school holidays. Madi and his younger brother where trying to retrieve one of their cows which had strayed into a neighbouring farm. The grass was long. He felt a sharp pain on his left ankle and soon realised it was a snake bite. He ran home and passed out before getting to the front door.
He told us how in the villages where he grew up, people believe in traditional healers over hospitals. So his family took him to see many over the next week, to no avail. They eventually took him to the main hospital in Banjul, the capital. By this time the poison had spread throughout his leg, to save his life he had to be amputated just below his hip.
Before his amputation Madi dreamt of becoming a footballer. He was good. He suffered from months of depression, but was inspired by the amount of people that visited him from school and the local village. He said the best advice he was given was by one of his teachers; ‘’If God closed one door, then he will open another’’, this inspired Madi to take a different direction with his life, he wanted to write and to expose injustice. Madi became the first member of his family to complete school at higher education.
Madi began using a prosthetic leg 10 years after his amputation. In this video interview he explains how it made him feel back to normal. He talks about the stigmatisation that disabled people suffer from, due to the belief that God has caused the disability as vengeance for previous wrong-doing. And he talks about how people get drawn into begging because they feel they have no skills to give.
Thankfully, Madi believes things are getting better in the Gambia. Organisations such as the GFD (Gambia Federation for the Disabled) are lobbying for funding to train beggars and young disabled people into skills that can get them into work. With more skills and training for them, society will only benefit in the long run.
Currently people have to buy their own materials to have their prosthetics built, sometimes all the way from Dakar (300 miles). There are not enough materials available, the budget allocated by the government is too little to service all the disabled people in Gambia.
Prosthetics coming from Europe to Gambia and Senegal is a very welcome development, the materials here are limited and unaffordable for most. A prosthetic can have a huge impact, with it you can do skilled work, it frees your hands from the crutches and makes you feel normal again.
Madi was interviewed in January 2015.