Nincy Mariam Mondly, a participant at the Workshop on empowering Women with Disabilities organized by Pallium India and Mobility International USA’s (MIUSA) Women’s Institute on Leadership and Disability (WILD), shares her experience:
The workshop on women empowerment held on 15 December 2018 at the Kanthari International Institute for Social change, Nemom, was yet another opportunity that knocked at my door unexpectedly. It was like a cake with many cherries on top of it; knowing that I wouldn’t feel left out among a group of physically challenged women (students with speech and hearing problems from NISH, blind students from Jyothirgamaya and others like myself with locomotor disability) was a powerful motivator to attend it. Added bonuses like not having to pay any fees for participating and the venue being close to my house gave me more reasons to be part of the workshop. Even at the last moment, when the arrangements I had made for travelling didn’t work out, Ashla Krishnan became the Knight in shining armour, who took me along with her to the venue like a VIP. Holding my head up high and with a toothy smile I sat in the tempo as it approached the venue.
The venue, one of the best parts of the workshop, encompassed several Baker-model buildings, a lot of greenery and was beside the Vellayani lake (largest fresh water lake in Trivandrum). I know this because I myself had driven my automatic wheelchair all around these places, taking in the fresh air and feeling close to nature.
A lot of smiling faces welcomed me; these were the staff of Pallium India and many CET student volunteers who catered to our needs with great care. The participants warmed up to each other quickly, feeling united in the joy we felt just by being together. If our wheelchairs stand out usually, in the workshop, our personalities stood out.
After the brief welcome address, the workshop began with advocate Sandhya’s session. She explained how the law seeks to serve and protect us. She encouraged us to not be silent in the face of injustice, thereby showing us that we are the actualisers of a law that would otherwise, in the absence of our action, only remain in books. Seeing my friend noting down the points carefully, I also did that; more in my mind than the notepad.
The session that followed a tea break was by gynecologist Dr Shaliya James, who made us aware of our own bodies, especially about the female reproductive system and the problems that women generally encounter. We were also guided on how to use menstrual cups (that each of us were gifted for participating in the workshop). She devoted special time for clearing our doubts.
All the sessions had interpreters for the students of NISH who used sign language. It was wondersome to watch their interactions. On every occasion where I have got the chance to meet people with varied “physical challenges”, I have had to expand my own perspective to see how beautiful the world is, even with all these imperfections or may be to even state that these imperfections are what makes the world perfect. And I gladly put myself among these imperfections.
After a well-served lunch, there was a fun activity. We were asked to go around the beautiful place and then draw a tree with symbolic meaning; the roots of the tree were to represent our values, the trunk was meant for the support we get in our life, branches denoted our skills and finally our dreams to be depicted through the leaves. Being a person who enjoys artwork, I held onto the chart paper and sketch pens that they provided, like a small kid. After lavishly enjoying the greenery, most of us settled to draw our trees.
The afternoon session which began with a group photo, was conducted outdoors. As opposed to the hall, being outside was equally refreshing for everyone. By this time a special guest had joined us too. She patiently waited amidst us, while each of us explained our trees, some green and leafy while others were dry with scarce leaves but all having lot of meaning. While most of us were shy to talk about our trees, this guest was keenly listening to all of the participants and taking special note of their pictures and she did this while lying on her stretcher. This special guest was Sarasu Thomas, who at a very young age, became paralysed below the neck, from polio. Even then, using the fingers that she can move, she writes, stitches and even draws. She even got State Government award for best author. Using a combination of her life experiences, examples from nature and even short stories, she stimulated us from within, to see ourselves as having potential to rise up higher from the depths of our disabilities and turn them into fascinating instruments.
As the day got over and I returned home, leaving the door of my heart wide open for more such opportunities to transform me from within.
If you liked this, you may want to read another blog by Nincy: Letting the paint brush find its way