Mozambique: Mércia Viriato Licá – “I am not different”

The ninth legislature began in Mozambique on 13 January 2020 and the 250 elected deputies took possession of their seats.

Everything happened as usual except for a young deputy: Mércia Viriato Licá. At just 24, this young law graduate from Maputo’s Pedagogical University has become the youngest parliamentarian in the country’s history.

Her attention was not focused only on her because of her young age but also because of a congenital disability; she was born with no arms. She writes, uses the computer or turns on the light in the room at home with her feet. Despite everything, she insists on acknowledging that she does not feel different “and much less special”.

The strength she has shown throughout her life has made her a point of reference for people who, like her, suffer from a physical disability.

When Mércia Viriato took office, Mozambican activist Benilde Mourana said she hoped she “would not be just another MP, but would bring the real concerns of people with disabilities to Parliament and that this wave of inclusion would spread. in other key sectors in the area of disability. ”

For now, the MP has already stated that her priority for the legislature will be education. After collecting the minutes of her seat, the Mozambican woman expressed the hope that she may contribute to the development of the country “through education. I want to encourage young people to never stop studying because education is the way to real life ”.

The day after the parliament opened, a local newspaper entitled: “Mércia, de menina renegada a deputada” (Mércia, from rebellious girl to parliamentarian) and a photo of eight-year-old Mércia sitting on the school floor, together with her companions, bending over some half-written pages and clutching a blue pen with the tip of her right foot.

In 2003, when her mother went to enrol her in elementary school, the leaders of the centre advised her to find a special school. But her mother did not have the money to enrol her in a special school and so after much insistence, she was accepted into the school like any other pupil. She began to write with her foot. Years later, in an interview, she acknowledged that “Even now, I still wonder why I should have gone to a special school”.

Abandoned by her father when she was just a child, Mércia grew up under the exclusive tutelage of her mother, with whom she still lives today. However, as she herself points out, she wanted every difficulty to become an opportunity and an obstacle to be overcome. If there is anything that explains her presence in the House of Representatives, it is her tenacity, which led her to address the country’s president, Filipe Nyusi.

Through social media, she asked him to do everything possible to facilitate living conditions and access to education for people with disabilities. President Nyusi has invited her to carry on her battles in defence of the disabled through politics. Mércia took up the challenge; she stood as a candidate for the province of Téte and succeeded in reaching her goal.

(Javier Fariñas Martín)

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