Ghana’s Farida Bedwei launches ‘Karmzah’—a comic which portrays a heroine with cerebral palsy

Karmzah, a comic that portrays a person with cerebral palsy as a heroine to change the negative perceptions about persons with disability was launched on 6 October to coincide with the World Cerebral Palsy Day, and will be made available online on the Afrocomix App on Google Playstore.

The comic is the brainchild of Farida Bedwei who took to writing to supplement her disability rights advocacy. Bedwei, who lives with cerebral palsy and is also an IT Entrepreneur, launched Karmzah together with her partners Leti Arts, an entreprise which creates games and comics based on African history and folklore with the aim of re-telling the African story and culture in a 21st Century reality.

“Children are easily molded and can be influenced quicker thus using comic to attract children and the general public,” Bedwei said in an interview with Africanews. 

“If a child with cerebral palsy sees Karmzah, the child will grow up feeling proud of him or herself regardless of the walking aid or the wheelchair he or she uses,” Ms Bedwei explained.

Born in 1979, Bedwei was diagnosed at the age of one with cerebral palsy—an incurable neurological disorder that affects body movement and muscle coordination but does not interfere with the ability to learn. Since then, Bedwei has steadfastly refused to let her disability affect her career trajectory. Today, as the co-founder and chief technical officer of software company Logiciel, she is considered one of the most powerful women in financial technology on the continent.

While there have been some characters in the comic world such as Professor X who uses a wheelchair, and the visually impaired Cyclops in Marvel’s X-Men, the representation of children and adults with disabilities in the comics and cartoons is limited. It was this gap Bedwei noticed and sought to fix.

“Considering the number of children / adults with varying disabilities worldwide, there needs to be a lot more characters they can relate to in the world of animation,” the author said to Africanews.

According to statistics, cerebral palsy is the largest cause of childhood disability. With the introduction of a super-heroine who, in spite of having cerebral palsy, fights bad guys and rescues victims, Bedwei believes we’ll be changing the narrative and making it seem, at the very least, that there’s not that big a deal having a physical disability. In fact, Bedwei admits that the idea is to make the aids (wheelchairs, walking aids, hearing aids, etc) ‘cool’: “If there are crutches that unleash whips and darts, and braces which allow the wearer to run super-fast, it makes it more appealing to the average child/ teen who has to wear/use them to get around.”

Farida Bedwei

In the comic, the character Karmzah still uses her walking aids, and is empowered through them. If she loses a hold of her crutches, she reverts to her ordinary self and can no longer fight, run or fly as she does with the superpowers.

The disability discussion continues to generate conversations across most parts of the world. In the developed world, laws and policies are being backed by concrete actions in seeking to effectively integrate that very crucial part into everyday life. In the developing and underdeveloped world however, there remains little or zero implementation where semblance of laws exist.

Farida Bedwei’s advocacy is well documented in Ghana and across the world, even once appearing on CNN’s African Voices. Previously, she had authored a book “Definition of a Miracle” which she described as – “a fictional account of some experiences I had as a child, growing up with cerebral palsy in Ghana.”

She continues: “Persons with disabilities are usually portrayed as being feeble and asking for handouts, in the media. I want to change that perception.

“We have weaknesses and strengths like everybody else and it’s about time the focus moved from what we can’t do to what we CAN do.”

Karmzah will be available on the Afrocomix app at the end of October.