At knock off time from Chichiri Secondary in Blantyre she thought the rain had receded and crawled with difficulty towards Naperi River to the rickety bridge she crossed on her way home.
Rain fell profusely and the river was swollen and upon reaching Naperi River she found that the bridge was gone except for a pole.
She hesitated for a moment and thought of going back to school, but it was late and her parents and relatives waited in fear with abated breaths.
She thought of the worst, but considered the best was to cross. And with her muddy hands and soaked uniform she clung to the pole and crawled afew steps, but slipped into the river.
Riding the muddy waves in trash, she gave up everything until someone grabbed her hand to safety.
That was the worst day for Rachel Kachaje former Minister of Disability and Elderly Affairs and cofounder of African Women with Disabilities organisation.
She lived in times when being physically challenged was brutally swoon upon and despite having the same or better qualifications than other people, chances of getting employed were close to none.
At age 3, in 1961 she lost use of her legs when she was attacked by Polio that struck Malawi.
Unlike other children who started their education earlier, she started at 8 and was being carried by her mother and sometimes sister to Kanjedza Primary School.
Her parents could not afford a wheel chair and it was some more gruesome years of mobility challenges through primary and secondary schools.
“In 1974 I was selected to go to HHI Secondary School which I attended only the first term due to mobility challenges and was transferred to Chichiri Secondary School where I finished my secondary education.
“And in 1979 after finishing my secondary was not successful to go to the university and I stayed at home for another year,” said Kachaje.
Her father worked for Malawi Broadcasting Corporation and her mother brew Kachasu to make ends meet. They had difficulty supporting 8 children.
She says her hardworking spirit and completion of secondary education was a gift to her family and they were anxious for a brighter future until more mountains arose.
“After I failed to go to university, I started looking for a job and it wasn’t easy to be employed, companies refused to employ people who were physically challenged.
“I stayed at home for a year and Malawi Council for the Handicapped announced on radio that they were looking for girls who had secondary school qualifications and I applied. But I wasn’t even successful, but after some days I was recalled to go to MACOHA that National Bank wanted to employ us,” said Kachaje.
Luckily this time National Bank employed two women and three men and she was employed as a telephone operator.
In 1981 she decided to further her studies at Malawi Polytechnic with the hope of getting a promotion.
Between 1981 and 1984 she attended evening secretarial studies classes, but upon completion, the bank did not immediately recognize her papers. She worked another seven years at the switchboard.
In 1986 she got married to Gibson Kachaje from Nsalu in Lilongwe and same year got promoted to typist and followed her husband to Lilongwe where she worked up to 2001, but was retrenched in 2001.
She has since 2001 been involved in activism for people with disability, Bible and books, born again CCAP,
Born on 5 May 1958 as Rachel Kamchacha from Linga Village TA Mwase in Kasungu she has received several awards and recognitions for her work in disability issues in Malawi and Africa in general.
In 2001 Southern African Federation of the Disabled recognized her to be part of them. She was elected chair between 2002 and 2007 and first woman to be chair of the federation.
In 2002 together with friends established Disability Women in Africa an organisation that champions for the rights of disabled women in Africa.
Some of the members are Rwanda’s Matilda Umurza and Hatouma Gakou from Mali who have all inspired a lot of women in Africa.
In 2007 she was deputy chair for Disabled People International responsible for development and was in 2011 re-elected on same position.
And in October 2013 though not being a politician, she was appointed as Minister of Disability and Elderly Affairs.
She is currently working in activism and bemoaned the delays in the enactment of the Disability Act in Malawi as a major obstacle to the rights of the disabled.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :