Oscar star becomes Casual Day ambassador

Casual MainBack: Casual Day finance officer Egness Ncube, Casual Day NGO liaison officer Zaza Khazamula and Sekai Marufu, also a member of the team. Front: Casual Day ambassador Prudence Mabhena. (image: Casual Day)

Prudence Mabena has been named ambassador ahead of this year’s Casual Day, taking place on 4 September.

The singer and songwriter starred in the Oscar-winning documentary, Music By Prudence, which looked at her life as a person who triumphed over her disability. The film won the 2010 Academy Award in the Best Short Documentary category.

It explores the inspiring story of this Zimbabwean songbird and follows her remarkable journey out of hatred and superstition into a world of music, love and endless possibility. Music By Prudence struck a chord with audiences by bringing to light the plight of disabled people, who experience discrimination in so many ways. But Mabena’s story is inspiring for everyone, not only disabled people.

Her appointment as an ambassador of the fundraising initiative is testament to her ability to carry a message to a wide audience; it is an ability from which the Casual Day initiative will benefit.

STAND AGAINST XENOPHOBIA

Born in Zimbabwe, Mabena recently visited South Africa to join the efforts in standing against the xenophobic attacks in the country in April. Casual Day believes it is appropriate for the disabled community to speak against xenophobia and in favour of diversity.

Mabena was born with arthrogryposis, a condition affecting the joints and resulting in an inability to move the limbs normally. It cost her both legs and makes it difficult for her to use her arms. When she was born, her father’s mother advised her mother not to nurse her. After her parents abandoned her, she was cared for by her maternal grandmother, a rural farmer who kept Mabena at her side as she worked throughout the day.

Regardless of her condition, she went on to form a band and not only became an internationally recognised singer, but also an ambassador for Unicef, the UN Children’s Fund.

After attending the Academy Awards in 2010, in which her film won, she was met at the airport by hundreds of people waiting to congratulate her and celebrate her achievement. Her father was also inspired by the film: Mabena was carried off the plane and at the foot of the stairs was her father. He was on his knees, tears streaming down his face, begging her for forgiveness.

Mabena uses her music to transcend boundaries of race, ability and nationality to bring her message to all who will listen. “Everyone listens to music,” she says. “I think messages sent out through music will be effective and can encourage immediate responses.”

The theme for this year’s Casual Day is Spring into Action. Mabena will record the first official Casual Day theme song in June, ahead of the event. The song was composed by Mabena and her musical partner, Bozoe Nkomo. It will feature rapper Tujay Harmonix, who is also a Casual Day ambassador.

CASUAL DAY

Established in 1995, Casual Day is the flagship project of the National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities in South Africa (NCPPDSA), which runs its national projects from its head offices in Edenvale.

Since its inception, the initiative has made it possible for the NCPPDSA to drive towards its goal of creating a fully accessible and inclusive society for all. And the council has raised more than R220-million through the day so far.

These funds are used to benefit thousands of people with disabilities around the country through a network of beneficiary organisations. This year, Casual Day has the goal of spreading the message of the social impact of the funds.

The organisation hopes to achieve this through its “Your R10 in Action” campaign, which will highlight where the funds collected are spent. The many schools and organisations benefiting from the money use it for a variety of different purposes, including transport, assistive devices such as wheelchairs and crutches, as well as awareness campaigns about disability.

Casual Day’s national beneficiaries include National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities, South African National Council for the Blind, South African Federation for Mental Health, Deaf Federation of South Africa, QuadPara Association of South Africa, Autism South Africa, Down Syndrome South Africa, National Association for Persons with Cerebral Palsy, South African National Deaf Association, National Institute for the Deaf, Alzheimer’s South Africa, and South African Disability Alliance.

There are branches and affiliates of these national organisations throughout the country.

PLAY YOUR PART

Everyone is encouraged to join the movement and play their part. You can buy a Casual Day sticker for R10, and wear casual clothes to work or school in support of the Casual Day initiative on Friday, 4 September.

For more information, contact the organisers of the project on 011 609 7006, visit the website or have a look at the Facebook page. Follow Casual Day on Twitter via the handle @CasualDay_SA and keep an eye out for the hashtags #CasualDay and #springintoaction.