“I sell charcoal and firewood in my village,” Batuli says. “I’ve always wished to be normal, like the others in my community. I wanted to look beautiful as well. It is such a great feeling to go back home and meet my customers with this new look.”
“Ni furaha kubwa,” she adds. “I’m so happy.”
Batuli is 40-years-old and has two sons and eight grandchildren. Until recently, she also had the congenital cleft lip that she was born with, a condition that has caused her pain in both her personal and social life.
“When my sons were growing up they asked me what happened to my lips,” she says. “I told them that it was how I was born. I am glad neither of my sons were ashamed of my condition, but it was upsetting that my husband would sometimes speak unkindly of my condition. He even married a second wife, in part because of my condition.”
Although Batuli wanted to attend traditional ceremonies and women’s gatherings, she was not accepted by the community: “When the local women were on their way to an event, they would pass by my house and tell me, ‘We’ll leave you behind to look after the babies.’ I knew they did not like walking with me.” She would also hear community members gossip about her cleft lip, and the stigma she faced led to challenges in her charcoal business. When they saw her, customers would ask what happened to her lips or even leave without buying her charcoal.
When one of Batuli’s grandsons was born with a cleft lip, the baby’s parents blamed her for his condition and decided that she should take care of the child. Soon after, a CCBRT ambassador looking for cleft lip cases in the area identified the child’s condition. Batuli’s husband brought the child to CCBRT, where surgeons repaired his cleft lip free of charge.
At the time, Batuli couldn’t leave home to travel to CCBRT with her grandson, but in October 2017 the CCBRT ambassador reconnected with Batuli and sent money through M-pesa for her own trip to Dar es Salaam.
Batuli underwent a successful cleft lip repair surgery. “I was a bit nervous going into the theater, but I’m so happy that the surgery was successful. I am very thankful to CCBRT and its supporters.”