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Expanding your interests: AKASA case study – Part 4

In this video, N.G. Kamalawathie describes the various ways that AKASA, the Association of Women with Disabilities in Sri Lanka, has provided support.
MAN: FutureLearn. [THEME MUSIC] UNSW Australia. AKASA case study, part four. N.G.
KAMALAWATHIE WITH INTERPRETER: We carry out several projects for women with disability through AKASA. We organise women with disability in their own communities and mobilise them so that they can ask that their rights be recognised. We implement livelihood projects, so that they can be independent financially. We have counselling for women with disabilities. Where there are children with disabilities, we assist them in obtaining their education and encourage them to educate themselves as far as possible. We provide vocational training for young women with disability. We carry out awareness programmes on human rights for women with disability, for guardians of women with disability and their parents. And we even conduct awareness programmes for bureaucrats and politicians.
So it’s very important that we create awareness among all stakeholders. We teach them about the policy. We teach them all the laws. We teach them about the UN Convention. We also make them aware of the different types of assistance that is available to women or persons with disability through the state. At the individual level and at the personal level, we even help out in situations such as a wedding. We try to implement projects around sport and culture. We create recreational opportunities for women with disability.
In fact, what we try to do for our projects is to create similar opportunities for women with disability as there are for other Sri Lankan women, so that their lives are no different to other Sri Lankan women. Irrespective of their disability, we try to offer them an opportunity to live a quality life.
We were able to organise a leadership training programme for about 25 to 50 women per district for 10 days. So all these different women, Sinhalese and Tamil, came together for the training programme, and they went back home transformed. For example, in that group, there were women who were combatants who were disabled during the war. There were women who had acquired disability due to hostilities carried out by the LTTE and by government forces. And these women in general would have had very negative perceptions of the individuals of the other community. But because of the leadership training that we organised, they were able to break down those negative perceptions and establish relationships with each other based on humanity.
And those relationships remain today. And they are in touch with each other. And I think, looking back, that this is one of our greatest achievements.

In this step, we look at some of the ways that AKASA, an association of women with disabilities in rural Sri Lanka, has worked to support disabled women.

As Kamala explains, AKASA provides practical supports so that women with disabilities can have opportunities equal to those of other women in their communities. In particular, their livelihood projects have helped to create opportunities for women with disabilities to be involved in cultural, social, recreational, educational and vocational activities.

In addition to providing individual supports for disabled people in the community, such as leadership training, AKASA has also worked more broadly to raise awareness about human rights among individuals, community members, and governments; and has supported disabled women to form supportive relationships with one another across cultural and ethnic boundaries. These various supports have also worked to change the perception of women with disability in their communities, and even to change their own perceptions of themselves.

For Kamala, providing support goes hand-in-hand with the provision of access and opportunity. But it also involves cultivating respect for human diversity and human rights, and helping people to see past their differences and form supportive relationships with one another.

Talking points

  • What different kinds of support do you recognise from the video?
  • Does this example in any way change your ideas about support?
  • Human rights is central to AKASA’s approach to support. What impact do you think a human rights framework has?
  • How does this case study tie together the different topics from this course?

In the next step we look at yet another case study — support for parents with intellectual disabilities.

This article is from the free online

Disability and a Good Life: Working with Disability

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