More than 3.5 lakh women with various disabilities in State
Being a woman and fighting gender divides on a daily basis is tough enough. But what if one is burdened with the additional vulnerability of disability also?
There are more than 3.5 lakh women with various kinds of locomotor or mental disabilities in Kerala, according to the State Disability Census, 2015.
The Rights of Persons With Disabilities Act, 2014 drew attention to many of the issues faced by persons with disabilities and the government is now committed to various initiatives to safeguard the rights and welfare of those with disabilities.
“Women with disabilities have more problems than disabled men when it comes to mobility and accessibility to information, services or even medical care. Their special issues and the additional vulnerability they have to bear, on top of the natural gender bias that exists in society, are not taken up even by mainstream women’s groups. Even if we wanted to organise them, there are serious limitations for this group as most of them cannot be mobile independently,” says J. Sandhya, a human rights activist and lawyer.
Ashla Rani, a former IT professional who became a paraplegic at the age of 28 and who currently works with Pallium India, says that the additional vulnerability of disability makes women extremely helpless.
Life of dignity
“I consider myself a privileged person because with the support of my family, friends and Pallium India, I have emerged as a stronger person. I am part of the mainstream society and have been afforded opportunities as anyone else to lead a life with dignity. That is not the case with most disabled women around us, who cannot move out of their homes and have little opportunities to interact with the outside world. Their disability instils a natural fear and distrust of society in them, prevents them from exploring opportunities or making themselves heard,” says Ms. Rani.
A disabled woman is more likely to be home-bound and have lesser chances of being married or having a family of her own than men in similar situations.
With the help of Mobility International USA, an agency involved in advancing disability rights and leadership and promoting equal access to international travel experiences, Ashla has been part of an initiative to get together women with disabilities and to help them build leadership skills. The going has not been easy but she says she will not quit trying.