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Life-skills Enhancement Programmes

Millions of women suffer various indignities silently at the hands of their families, suitors, husbands,and society at large. But to be a woman with a disability compounds her misery exponentially. RDT’s women and education sectors pay special heed towards helping women and girls with disabilities achieve self-reliance.

Women among PWDs, tend to suffer disproportionately. The predominant practice for parents of 2 girls, one of whom was having a disability, was to ask the suitor for their child to marry the sister with disability as well. For parents, this meant that both girls were provided for after their deaths, but what happened more often than not, was that the sister with the disability ended up becoming a servant in her home. In other cases, girls and women with disabilities were cast aside or mistreated as burdens to the family. All of these conditions made it imperative that women and girls with disabilities needed developmental help to enable them to acquire some empowerment and hopefully, the ability to make a living on their own.

RDT organises various initiatives to improve their physical health, and provide for their economic security.

“I was surprised and fascinated when RDT showcased the array of handicrafts that were put together by women with disabilities!”
Maria Dasilva
RDT visitor

Occupational training for enhanced mobility and income generation

RDT has set up special centres that focus on strengthening life-skills and providing a livelihood for women. There are 7 such handicraft centres operating for the past 12 years which have so far trained 437 women and adolescent girls with disabilities. These workshops help women specialise in textile crafts, fashion jewellery, jute products, paper conversion (papier mâché and other techniques), manufacturing recycled paper and eco-crafts such as making Areca nut tree dry sheaths. Women are taught how the production process of handicraft process works (both centre-based and home-based), and a sizeable portion of their inventory regularly gets exported to Spain.

Currently, 246 women are regularly involved with the production process. The women are physically or intellectually challenged or have a hearing or visual impairment and their ages range from 18 to 30 years. The core group members live in the residential facilities provided by RDT, and the sub-group members are home-based workers who live in the surrounding villages.

These women are organised into Self Help Groups called Sanghams, producing jute products, jewellery and textile-based, hand-embroidered and tailored products, papier mâché, recycled paper products, natural fibre and environmentally-friendly products for domestic and export markets.

The production group activities are carried out within a centralised production unit. The centralised unit is part of an integrated complex which also houses the residential quarters, dining hall and other recreational facilities for the in-house producers. The complex is located in safe and healthy surroundings constructed by RDT as part of its community outreach programme. All women in each workshop are led by an instructor, who ensures that they are well assisted. He or she provides them with all the tools, materials, training and information required. The instructors are experienced and skilful former trainees and workers who are also responsible for maintaining quality and continuous training of the women in the workshops. The workers and women are trained in Embroidery, Tailoring, English, Communication Skills, Block Printing, Jewellery, Quality, Marketing, Information Technology, Leadership, Storage and Painting.

Training of women with disabilities in these workshops has offered multiple benefits for them both socially and within their families. Due to the Sangham activities, they gained the much-needed self-confidence to survive in their societies and obtained respect, recognition and acceptance. After joining the centres, these women command respect from their family members and are now allowed to attend functions and family celebrations. These women have become financial supporters to their families, and are now looking after personal responsibilities like their siblings’ education, marriages, health of their parents, etc. Initially they didn’t know the value of money, but now they have decent savings in bank accounts and some even have health insurances. They now receive a proper diet, have access good accommodation and are able to purchase good quality clothing.

The most important fall out of the CBR sector’s work with women however, has been increased autonomy for women with disabilities. We have seen, that they now can exercise some say in their choice of life partners, and many in fact opt to marry men with disabilities whose life-skills complement their own so that they may take better care of each other and live an independent life.

HIGHLIGHTS
 
STAFF SPEAK
 

Women with disabilities face a bigger risk of harassment and neglect. They are more vulnerable, and are often targets of the society. RDT’s work in this sector is to provide life-skills enhancement opportunities for women to become financially independent through handicraft and skill training. This work has long-lasting repercussions as not only are these women more confident, but their ability to make money sustains them economically and psychologically in the long term.

Mrs. Indira Prasanna,
Training Resource Person – CBR Sector

SUCCESS STORY
 

I am 28 year old Rama Lakshmi belonging to the Scheduled Caste category. I am the youngest in my family and my three elder brothers are married and settled in our native village, Muntimadugu of Garladinne Revenue Mandal in Ananthapuram district. My parents, Obulesu and Subbamma were agricultural labourers.

I am physically challenged and didn’t have much hope from life before joining the Self Help Group at Penakacherla, which brought a drastic change in my attitude towards life. I joined RDT’s handicrafts centre at Bathalapalli in 2001 and learnt the art of making of jute products. . It was a great experience and I had acquired reasonably good skills within a period of 12 months that is now providing me with a regular income.

I had a house site at Rudrampeta, a suburb of Ananthapuram on which I have built a semi-permanent shed by investing an amount of Rs.1,00,000 from my savings. I have also purchased 2.75 cents (1197 Sq. Feet) of land in Syndicate Nagar, Ananthapuram with my earnings. With my own money, I have set up the house with domestic utensils and even a fan.

I don’t have any expectations from my brothers and parents since I am financially independent. In fact, now I am liberal in giving gifts to my brothers, their wives and children. Recently I purchased a pair of gold earrings for Rs.15,000 – my first piece of owned jewellery.

Had there been no RDT, my life would have been miserable. RDT not only taught me skills in handicrafts but also infused courage in me. Such support will help a lot of people in becoming economically and mentally stronger to sustain themselves and support others.

“It was exactly when my life was in cross roads RDT stood beside me and created a ray of hope.”

PARADIGM SHIFT
 

Enhanced skill set of PWDs has resulted in an increased readiness of their families to invest for establishing small businesses or higher education.

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