In India, if you are poor and have a child with disabilities the chances are you will have to face a whole host of disappointments and struggles.
Manju was just about 15 when Sonu was born. He arrived with a large birth-mark across his face and in time they realised he was hearing and speech impaired. Manju’s husband is a gardener and they live in rented rooms in Delhi. Work as a gardener did not bring in enough money to manage their affairs so Manju wanted to work but she needed to have her son with her. She could not leave him at home alone and bosses were not willing to have her son around and they did not provide any facilities for child care, so Manju changed jobs many times. It was all about juggling!
Sonu couldn’t go to school because of his hearing and speech impairment; many people in the street made fun of his birthmark and disability and there was no outlet for his frustrations except to make trouble with the neighbours and have furious bouts of stubborn anger. If Manju stopped working the family situation became worse, so as Sonu grew older Manju would leave him at home. He began to mix with the wrong kind of youngsters and became involved in stealing and drinking.
This miserable cycle of low income, disability, no child care, no school place, and eventually going astray is certainly recognizable amongst poor families raising children with disabilities. The uncaring attitude of society and state leaves the whole family vulnerable.
Sonu ended up in a de-addiction centre before he was 17 years old.
Then Manju heard about an organization called POWHER and applied for a job. POWHER seeks to provide employment and training opportunities to low income families especially those with disability. Manju works full time for POWHER and when their team heard about Sonu they invited him to be a trainee on a monthly stipend. He has completed one year as a trainee and will stay there until he is 18 when he can be assisted into dignified employment and will have a better chance of keeping out of trouble.
I wondered how this family fared during the recent second wave of the pandemic. Rozina, who runs POWHER, managed to get permission for her workers to come to the production unit but the trainees had to stay at home. Manju was paid her usual salary of Rs 10,500 per month which meant that even though her husband may not have been able to do his gardening work the family had income all the time during the lock-down. MESH was able to provide some ration support for the most needy families in POWHER.
Buy POWHER Products from MESH's Online Store
MESH buys some lovely products from POWHER for sale in India and abroad. There are some here that you can buy from our online store:
An Act to Make a Difference
There are, many provisions for people with disabilities according to the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016, but a single family grappling with marriage at an early age, and a low income might not know about them, or have a clue how to claim them. To know more please see below, a series of three short films in Hindi which MESH has made to build awareness about the act.
Please feel free to circulate these video links and lets make sure the next generation after Sonu have a better chance for education and employment.