PANAJI: Office of the State Commissioner of Persons with Disabilities and Disability Alliance for Inclusive Goa celebrates International Women’s Day.
Five women with disabilities, Raksha Dangui, Anupa Ashok Pilgaonkar, Fulrani Kinelkar, Fredricka Menezes and Suraiya Khan felicitated.
Keynote speaker Preethi Srinivasan, founder of Soulfree, says to treat women and those with disability with respect.
Office of the State Commissioner of Persons with Disabilities and Disability Alliance for Inclusive Goa, in association with Sanjay Centre for Special Education, celebrated Women’s Day on Saturday, March 11, at Sanjay Centre for Special Education in Porvorim.
The annual programme ‘Spoorthi’ included a talk on Empowering Women with Disabilities.
On the occasion, five women with disabilities were awarded- Raksha Dangi, Anupa Ashok Pilgaonkar, Fulrani Kinelkar, Fredricka Menezes and Suraiya Khan.
Founder of Soulfree, a foundation in Tamil Nadu, Preethi Srinivasan who, expressed joy at being invited to Goa, explaining to the audience how the only difference between people and her in respect to disability, “your body cooperates with you, but mine doesn’t,” she pointed out.
She went on to highlight the issues of people with disabilities as she asked: “so, why can’t I get the same opportunity as you? I can’t even go and watch a movie; I can’t go even go to a favourite restaurant? And lockdown or not, moving about freely for persons with disabilities is limited.
Highlighting issues that women face, Srinivasan uses the phrase, “‘ek toh ladki hai, uppar se apahij’ (first of all she is a girl, on top of that, disabled) has become a general thought where men are perceived as being mightier and intellectual, and women have been discriminated throughout, even today” she highlighted through various examples.
After her accident, Srinivasan was unable to continue their studies back then, for there were no ramps, no lifts and attendance rules were not flexible enough, especially for the practical component. “But I didn’t give up. I studied medical sociology through correspondence and then started Soulfree,” thus becoming the voice of people like her who have disabilities and are the face of the invisible segment of society.
Through her interaction, she managed to instil hope and gave the audience an understanding that those with disabilities don’t need sympathy but need to be made to feel included through various steps that need to be taken, from the policy change, implementation, mindset change and being more sensitive.
On occasion, Sulakshana Sawant, President of Padmini Foundation, was the Chief Guest for the function, and Alka Phaldessai, State Executive Member of BJP, was the Guest of Honour. Also present was the State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Guruprasad Pawaskar and the Secretary, Office of the State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Taha Haaziq.
Pawaskar introduced the dignitaries and highlighted the importance of such a function. “Women are the backbone of society. And women with disabilities have more power to change their lives and those around them. There is positive growth in society, and through political will, and after the success of Purple Fest, issues of persons with disabilities are being highlighted to bring about change,” he said.
Sulakshana Sawant, in her address, spoke about how persons with disabilities can be inspiring to society.
She added that women are strong, but when faced with challenges, it becomes tough and commended Srinivasan for her grit in coping with her struggles and launching Soulfree, which has benefitted many people. Creating employment opportunities and developing technology are important factors in creating inclusivity that is needed, she mentioned.
Speaking on occasion, Alka Phaldessai said that on International Women’s Day, people need to remember to work towards creating inclusivity. “It is important to remember that women with disability are capable and valuable members of society and have the potential of empowering and help strengthen society”.