BBWS – supporting disabled people in rural India

By Denise Nanni and Milena
Rampoldi, ProMosaik. Today we would like to introduce you to another
organisation working for disabled people, this time located in India. We would
like to thank Dr. Gautam Kr Ghosh, Ph.D, Program Coordinator & Director

for all the information about BBWS.

activities on disability prevention and rehabilitation of PWDs encompasses
south Bengal districts of West Bengal, Singbhum district in Jharkhand and
Ranibagh area of Delhi – yet the major service delivery focus with outposts run
in the rural areas of Jhargram (a pre-dominantly tribal inhabited area) and
Tarakeswar (a rural belt with scheduled caste and other backward classes
communities) has been the focus of our service delivery since long. Therefore
based on our working experiences, we observe the following in the context of
rural PWDs-

faced by People with disabilities
–  On record 80% of people with disabilities
live in rural areas in India and the rural poor are particularly at risk of
those disabilities which are associated with malnutrition, poor condition of
environmental sanitation and communicable disease. The PWDs in rural India are
a heterogeneous group composed of those born with disability and those who
acquire disability following micro nutritional deficiencies as well as those
become disable due to accident or trauma of life events. The rural PWDs mostly
from poor families are marginalized and disadvantaged by variety of factors as
lack of access to productive resources, and to the opportunities, information
and skills which enable participation in social, economic and political
processes. The impact of being immobile in a rural set up is significant. Lack
of mobility primarily hinders almost everything from the person’s self care,
sanitation activities, work to play. While self care activities somehow
supported by family members, in case of non-ambulant disabled access to
education, occupation, etc. posed immense problems. The common forms of
barriers in rural areas as open drains, high thresholds at the entrance of a
house, lack of toileting infrastructure within homes, uncobbled pathways,
absence of street lights, etc. are things that average non-disabled Indian
would not even notice. However in India  there currently exists a strong legislation to
protect the interest of PWDs, but factually majority of Government schemes
implemented by the Government organizations, autonomous bodies and NGOs are
urban focused so far. Resultantly very few NGOs catering to PWDs rural areas,
as we with limited infrastructure and manpower at disposal, are unable to meet
the growing service needs of the rural PWDs.
inclusion of PWDs scenario
– While
progress in the sphere of social inclusion of PWDs in India is recorded, yet in
the context of rural India on the socio-economic front children with
disabilities in most cases remain out of school. Superstitions prevailing in the communities also play a big
role in subjecting the people with disabilities to various harmful
treatments.Families often lock or chain their children with intellectual disability
having behavioral issues, due to helplessness, ignorance and/or under social
pressure. Even the family members of the disabled often tend to avoid social
gatherings in shame or fear that someone would ask about their family member
with disability.
On the social attitudinal front negative attitude held
by families and often disabled themselves deter PWDs taking active part in
families, community and workforce. Those suffering from mental illness or
retardation face worst stigma and are subject to severe social exclusion. The
access barriers and employment opportunity lack, are compounded by the current
social protection measures of the Government – as centrally sponsored
anti-poverty programmes has reservations from PWDs, yet the number of PWDs
benefitted so far remained below the minimum laid down norms.
related to Women with disabilities

If one looks at the Indian Women’s Movement history, the same has focused on
poverty, caste, employment and various important social issues. But so far the issue
of Women with disabilities has never been on the agenda, even though with over
11 million WwD they form heterogeneous group in India. Due to differential gender-based role expectations, education
is not considered a priority for disabled girls. Dropout rates for disabled
girls are higher than for disabled boys. There is an over-representation of
disabled boys in education, both in special and mainstream schools. Parents
become more protective and restrictive, especially after a disabled girl
reaches puberty. Travelling to school is a huge problem, since, besides
transport difficulties, the danger of sexual abuse and violation looms large.
There is also the reasoning that there’s little point investing in a disabled
girl’s education as they will anyhow never be able to earn. Unfortunately a
girl child with disability is seen as a lifelong burden on the natal family
because marriage is not a realistic option. Hence, it is concluded to be
economically unsound to invest in her education or vocational training.
For WwD
in rural areas is the harsh reality of low likelihood of marriage. This is
particularly strong among the MR. If
a family has person with disability, eligible boys and girls finding a
prospective spouse is almost next to impossible because of the stigma and the
disability being seen as a family illness.

collaboration and networking systems
– The major focus of BBWS work has been to work in close
links with Government’s social welfare and health set ups, Gram Panchayets
(Elected Village Councils), Organizations working with PWDs and Youth Clubs.
The Society maintains proper networking with these set up and found it
extremely beneficial in implementing programmes for PWDs especially selection
of PWDs for providing mobility & hearing aids and other assistive devices
through pre-distribution assessment and post-distribution follow up. BBWS
liaison and networking encompasses also the National and State Institutes-
whose technical expertise availed at different times either in developing
training modules and/or client-specific assistive devises at our Workshop. We
support the functioning of the Beneficiary Committees set up at our different
centres – which actively participate and advise on the Society’s activities for
PWDs. The Society holds to its credit the Executive Member of the State and
District Level Bodies formed at the behest of the State Governments including
the State Institutes and the South Eastern Railway.