In alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) pledge to ‘leave no one
behind’, we look at one of our projects in South Asia which gives utmost importance to inclusion and
recognizes disability as a cross-cutting issue.
Girls with disabilities: doubly disadvantaged?
Inaccessible school environments, lack of basic infrastructures such as toilets, lack of gender-responsive curriculum and teaching practices, school-related gender-based violence, poverty, and parental fears regarding the safety of daughters are just some of the reasons for the exclusion of girls with disabilities. While lack of access to school is an issue, an equal concern is the inability of the education system to ensure quality education for children with disabilities. Thus, Girl Children with Disabilities (GCwD) not only face the usual array of disadvantages encountered by girls more broadly, but they are doubly disadvantaged as they also face the stigma and assumptions attached to being disabled.
The ENLIGHT project: inclusive education
To address the challenges faced by Girl Children with Disabilities, Aide et Action initiated a project in the districts of Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy, as part of the larger ENLIGHT project implemented across ten cities in India. Since 2015, we have identified and included 240 GCwD in the project. The project engages with a wide range of stakeholders that include; GCwDs, parents, the community, people’s representatives, various government departments and others.
The project follows the dual approach of; institutional and community-based interventional support. The community-based approach has given rise to the Sahajeevana Sanghams. These sanghams are the collectives of parents who have come together to support each other and find ways to address key issues affecting their children in a collective manner. The Sangham plays a crucial role in motivating the parents to enroll their children in school and to provide apt support. The Sangham has been instrumental in enabling several families to gain access to various entitlements namely; medical certifications, government pensions and availing assistive devices.
Empowering financially poor parents by providing them necessary parenting and child support skills encouraged them, particularly mothers, to become active agents of change in the project. For example, providing basic physiotherapy skills to parents gave them tremendous confidence to support their own daughters and made it possible for them to think about their daughter’s education. These children with disabilities could then dream about going to schools in Hyderabad, primarily because of the empowerment of their parents. “The ENLIGHT team helped our family obtain government-aided entitlements for our daughter, Afshan. The Community based physiotherapy sessions helped us to learn to perform therapy at home. Afshan’s condition improved significantly after getting proper treatment and physiotherapy sessions. She could walk slowly with minimal support and spell out words. Today, Afshan is enrolled in school and her teachers have even been sensitized to address her specific problems and needs,” says Syed Washim, father to Afshan, a girl child living with a disability.
Parental participation in the project has led to the development of Individual Education & Rehabilitation Plans (IERP) for each child based on an initial assessment. The project team and the parents are working together in implementing this plan for the benefit of the children. The project, to date, has been successful in enrolling 189 children in regular and special schools.
Aide et Action strives to provide learning opportunities to children with disabilities and reintegrate them into mainstream society. Our projects ensure inclusion as a cross-cutting thematic addressing the needs of children with disabilities