Ashla Rani, Executive Assistant to Chairman of Pallium India, writes:
We live in a country where being a woman itself is a big challenge. Disability makes it even more difficult. As a woman and a person with disability, there are laws to protect us in this country. However, they are not freely available when needed. We have to demand our rights in many occasions. Without knowing what we are entitled to, how will we demand it?
In this context, a workshop was organized by Pallium India on 23rd November to discuss the rights of women and the rights of people with disabilities. The venue was the Govt. College for Women, Thiruvananthapuram. The program was supported by the Women’s Institute on Leadership and Disability (WILD) program of Mobility International USA (MIUSA), Praptha (internal committee for differently abled students at Govt. College for Women) and Channel Foundation. 20 women with different kinds of disabilities attended the workshop. It was one of the rare opportunities for understanding each other beyond limitations while acknowledging and accepting the challenges we face in life because of the disability.
People do not see a person with disability as a sexual being. With many barriers to information, we do not have opportunities to discuss sexuality and reproductive health.
Imagine you are deaf and do not know sign language and you can communicate to others only through gestures. You are accused of a crime and have been taken to court. The court has arranged a sign language interpreter but that is not your language. No one in the court, including the advocate and the judge, is interested in finding a means to communicate with you, to understand what you have to say about the crime. Where will you go? Do you think you will get justice? This was a real experience shared in the workshop.
We had a surprise guest. Dr Shashi Tharoor, MP of Trivandrum, dropped in and briefly interacted with us. He acknowledged that “law as it is doesn’t make a difference without its proper implementation”. He promised his wholehearted support to take our representations to both Central and State governments. It was an encouragement to the participants.
Thanks to 9 students who volunteered and teachers Uma Jyothi of Economics dept, Nazeen A of Philosophy dept, Devika of English dept and July A of Malayalam dept for all the support. Our gratitude is also due to Adv Sandhya J and Dr Shaliya James for their very informative sessions on rights and reproductive health respectively.