Maria Laisa, a musician living with visual disability, works with girls facing the threat of early marriage and Female Genital Mutilation and plans to open a centre to help them
Charles Okwemba @charlito56
Tell us a bit about yourself
I am Maria Laisa, a university student studying special needs education at Kenyatta University. I am currently in my second year. I am a gospel artiste and I have been in the gospel industry for two years.
You are visually challenged. Take us through your journey?
I was not born visually challenged. My eyes started itching in 2004 and I was taken to hospital, but the doctors said it was too late. I was suffering from eye pressure. The doctors gave me medication, but it did not help as I completely lost my sight in 2005.
What are some of the challenges you face in the music industry?
It was difficult for me to shoot videos and record songs as I lacked funds. It has not been easy for me. I hail from Loitokitok and sometimes I had to travel to Nairobi to record a song then travel back the same day. I also once sold second hand clothes so that I could get funds for recording my songs.
You have an album out. Tell us about the album.
I released my first album in 2016. It is called Ananiwazia Mema. It came about when I was in high school and the principal used to chase away students for fees, but because I was visually challenged, I was told to stay since I had no one to help me. The album has five songs one in maa dialect and the rest in Kiswahili. The Maasai song is titled Tudu Mwaki, which is a prayer song.
What challenges did you face when coming up with the album?
I did not have enough money to shoot a video. In 2016, I was able to shoot the video, but I worked with a few dancers as I lacked the funds to pay for many dancers.
You are an advocate for the girl-child and you plan to start a rescue centre. What motivates you?
Most of the girls face challenges such as early marriages or Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), especially in the maa community where it is deeply entrenched because of cultural beliefs.They at times try to look for help, but they do not find it in their environment. Having such rescue centres will, therefore, enable the girl-child to get protection from abuse.
What would you like to achieve through opening the rescue centre?
Through opening of the rescue centre, girls will get protection against abuse and get a chance to get an education and eventually become independent and role models in the community.
When did you realise your talent in singing?
I realised I could sing when I was in Class Seven. I could sing in church and I was in the school choir in high school.
What advice would you give to the physically challenged?
I encourage those who are living with disability not to give up and that everything is possible. They should remain focused in life and rise above their disabilities by using their talent.