People with disabilities face a wide range of problems for their survival. Ranging from educational challenges to the lack of inclusive accommodation facilities, people with disabilities have faced many difficulties in leading their normal lives. Moreover, the problems are amplified when it comes to women with disabilities. As women face discrimination in terms of education and access to employment, the condition of women with disabilities in these areas is worsening.
Mitra Jyothi is a Bangalore-based NGO working for people with disabilities in general and the visually impaired in particular. As part of the various initiatives, they have a “Centre for the Empowerment of Women with Disabilities”. Based in India’s Silicon Valley, Bangalore, this center is a state-of-the-art, disability-friendly, safe and secure accommodation facility for female workers with disabilities. In collaboration with the Hans Foundation, the hostel was inaugurated in January 2016. The center is designed to accommodate 50 women working in Bangalore and in need of a hostel.
Ms. Madhu Singhal is the founder and administrator of Mitra Jyothi. She went to school and studied in Braille. Facing challenges and overcoming them, Singhal wanted to use his life experiences to do something meaningful for the blind and thereby enrich the lives of others with his life learnings. Her service to society through Mitra Jyothi has been recognized around the world as she has been awarded several times.
About Mitra Jyothi and its goals
The NGO believes that women with disabilities are subject to more discrimination not only in relation to the outside world but also within their families. The girl is often discouraged from pursuing studies and employment. Additionally, concerns such as the girls’ safety in sustaining a life in a new city also pose challenges. Consequently, women often miss out on opportunities that could improve their lives due to a lack of safe environments.
The NGO aims to provide safe shelter for women who work or study with physical or visual disabilities. It is available at nominal and subsidized costs to reduce the financial burden of working women. Through this initiative, Mitra Jyothi encourages rural women to attend mainstream colleges and universities instead of distance education. Usually women with disabilities are content with online distance education due to a lack of inclusive accommodation facilities. Sometimes, when such facilities are available, they are not affordable to them.
Through this service, the NGO broadens the horizon of employment for women with disabilities because they are exposed to the culture of urban work. This in turn helps to improve their employability skills to meet other job demands and exposure to a competitive world. As a result, women see themselves leading independent lives overcoming all kinds of challenges.
Additionally, Mitra Jyothi has a dedicated placement cell that provides placement to many people with disabilities. Through this cell, they help with necessary preparation, soft skills training, resume preparation and logistical learning for women with disabilities. The cell has managed to find them jobs in the IT, government and private sectors.
For people with little education, the NGO helps to find simple and repetitive jobs such as in garment factories and the food industry. In collaboration with TCS, the NGO organizes an “Advanced Computer Training” training program each year. As a result, placement of interns is done in other companies such as Cisco, IBM, Accenture, etc.
Problems in inclusive accommodation facilities
People with disabilities need facilities that are inclusive and adapted to their particular disability. For people with reduced mobility, rails and walking ramps are necessary to move to the respective places. Therefore, for working women with disabilities, the availability of such an environment is a must to sustain life in a new city as a professional.
In 1972, the Indian government came up with a working women’s hostel program to provide affordable housing for women. They aimed to provide safe, well-located housing for working women living away from their families due to work commitments. The program mentioned the reservation of places for physically handicapped beneficiaries.
However, an evaluation report submitted by the Haryali Center for Rural Development to the Ministry of Women and Child Development indicated that a field survey revealed that only 32% of households covered by the program planned a reservation for women with disabilities. None of the working women’s shelters in Bhopal, Lucknow, Ahmedabad and Surat have places for the disabled.
In addition, the program mentions guidelines for the mandatory provision of facilities for people with disabilities. But only 22% of hostels have specialist facilities such as ramps, handrails, wheelchairs to aid mobility and disabled toilets. Seventy-eight percent of homes do not have such specialized facilities.
Of 15 working women’s shelters with specialized facilities for people with disabilities, 43% have specialized toilets, 36% have ramps and 29% have wheelchairs.
This shows that the program has yet to get off to a good start, especially for women with disabilities.
Initiatives taken by NGOs like Mitra Jyothi reflect the uplift that women with disabilities need to explore various opportunities with eased accommodation and security concerns for them. This, in turn, leads to inclusivity for these women not only in terms of the physical environment but also in the work spaces, as more and more people seize the opportunities when these NGOs try to help them.
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