TO BE WOMEN WITH DISABILITIES IN INDIA: STORIES OF UNSUNG PATHBREAKERS
Mehta, Bhavna; Shah, Nidhi (2016). 'TO BE WOMEN WITH DISABILITIES IN INDIA: STORIES OF UNSUNG PATHBREAKERS' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Tokyo 2016.
About 650 million people in the world – or 10 per cent of the world’s population – live with disabilities and frequently encounter myriad of physical and social obstacles. They often lack the opportunities of the mainstream population and are usually among the most marginalized in society. Women face barriers to full equality and advancement because of such factors as reace, age, language, ethnicity, culture, religion or disability (Beijing Platform for Action, 1995). Girls and women of all ages with any form of disability are the more vulnerable and marginalized of society. They are invisible and not very much found in the agenda, process of development.
Disabled women in India face huge discrimination: as a woman experiencing gender discrimination and as a disabled person experiencing prejudices around ‘difference in abilities’. Disabled girls and women struggle to access rights to education, health, employment and others. They often have low self esteem, low levels of literacy and experience discrimination by their own families. Disabled girls and women living in rural areas are more deprived than those in urban areas as there are few support services, and gender-biased cultural practices are more common. This creates further barriers for disabled women to exercise their rights. (AWWD, 2009)
In spite of these barriers limiting disabled women to exercise their human rights and more so rights as disabled persons, there are women who have triumphed over these obstacles and have achieved some significant recognition/positions in their lives. While each woman in their own right have struggled and survived amidst her own life situations, it is important to take note of those who have marked a difference and serve as a role model inspiring many others and providing ray of hope to them that everything is possible with determination, perseverance and hard work.
The present paper based on a small primary qualitative research of disabled women achievers / leaders (as defined by their peers) and review of available studies on women with disabilities will showcase women’s struggles, barriers experienced by them, factors that motivated, supported and helped them. The stories will describe women’s experiences of life particularly related to mainstreaming in society. It proves that disability is just a state of mind and that their disability did not hold them back in any way. They are the champions in their own stride… proud of their lives and achievements!!
KEYWORDS: Women with Disability, Women Achievers, Gender Discrimination