Three years ago, I got to closely feel the lives of people with disabilities (PwDs) while carrying out a research study for my masters degree. During the data collection, I was stunned by a question that one of the PwDs asked me. Am I going to do something for the disabled or just gather their information? Although I was speechless to answer his question that time, I became determined to help improve their lives. My research findings also suggest that the only way to help them to change their lives is to economically empower them.
Coincidentally the next year (in 2014) after my research, I got a chance to develop a project concept paper to link agro- entrepreneurship with PwDs in partnership with the US Embassy. Before I went to field and work with PwDs, I met some experienced social activists and experts involved in the sector of disability. They all appreciated my passion but also warned me not to lose my patience since I had chosen a challenging job. For my project, I chose Birgunj as the target location. Following consultations with target groups and stakeholders, I found it was difficult to work with PwDs alone. I also had a hard time getting support from my parents. Hence, I also added women from deprived communities to the target grous along with PwDs. This also broadened the composition of my target group. Despite other challenges, I started to execute the agro-entrepreneurship project.
Although it was not an NGO funded initiative, people cast doubt on my project in the beginning (this is because the locals often distrust NGOs, which run short term projects and pull out before any substantial changes can be seen). Later, they trusted me as I maintained transparency and involved them in decision making. I provided the target groups capacity building training that they required to work in the field. The project was not for profit, just smiles on their faces while working with them was priceless for me.
The project, which was just at its initial phase, was affected in April following the destructive earthquake and now due to the ongoing strikes for the last four months. This is particularly devastating for the target group because they are not only under-utilizing their capacity of agro-entrepreneurship, but also deprived of the earnings to improve their living.
All the PwDs need is to empower them economically so that they can decrease their dependency level. This is what my project aims for. I have been working with a small number of PwDs in Birgunj. Many have been working in Nepal and the world with significant number of PwDs. Yet, a large number of PwDs are deprived of such opportunities.
Out of 7 billion people in the world, over one billion people have some form of disability, i.e. one in seven is disabled. More than 100 million disabled persons are children. Studies have found that children with disabilities are almost four times more likely to experience violence than non-disabled children. Fifty percent of disabled persons cannot afford health care and 80 per cent of all people with disabilities live in a developing country like Nepal (UN Facts and figures).
The graphs below shows the types of disability in Nepal as per the CBS 2012.
Looking through the ecological lens, prevalence of disability was highest in the mountain (2.98%), followed by the hills (2.209%) and then Tarai (1.56%) (CBS, 2012).
Although 153 countries including Nepal signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, they are yet to fulfill their promises to improve the lives of PwDs. Today (December 3) is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD), prime day to call on the signatories and draw their attention towards improving the lives of PwDs. This day is globally marked to promote awareness and mobilize support for critical issues relating to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in society and development.
On the occasion, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says:
We mark this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities in the wake of the adoption of the ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This global blueprint for action summons us to “leave no one behind.
With this year’s theme ‘Inclusion matters: access and empowerment of people of all abilities’, the world commemorates the IDDP on December 3 to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. Here is the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s statement in full version:
As per the UN day’s official page for the day, the annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons on December 3 was proclaimed in 1992, by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 47/3. Here is the UN statement from 1992.
On this day, let us promise and engage ourselves to empower the persons with disabilities and increase awareness for their meaningful participation in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural lives across the world.