Supporting a Socio-Economic Project for the Empowerment of People with Disabilities in 30 Villages in India

Project location: INDIA, Kadambur Hills, Tamil Nadu–
Project start date: June 2012 - Project end date: December 2012
Project number: 2012-043
Beneficiary: Mani Tese

 

The Constitution of India ensures equality, freedom, justice and dignity to all the individuals and implicitly mandates an inclusive society for all including the persons with disabilities. As per the provisions of PWD (persons with disabilities) Act 1995, seven categories of disabilities have been identified viz., blindness, low vision, leprosy cured, hearing impairment, locomotors disability, mental retardation and mental illness. Persons falling under the above categories with a minimum of 40% disability are eligible in principles for entitlement of all benefits provided by the Government (such as scholarship, job reservation, concession of assistive devices, facilities in travelling, tax benefits, loan for business, etc.).
As per the 11th plan, persons with disabilities could be as high as 5-6% of India's total population. This substantial portion of the population needs equal services and opportunities for their overall development, which is also an essential attribute for the inclusive growth. The different-able people have been recognized as valuable human resource in the country, but even if Government has been taking various initiatives to mainstream them, its intervention is still inadequate compared to their needs. This mainly because the care of the disabled comes somewhat low on its agenda, after more pressing problems of providing food, drinking water, health care, primary education and housing.
To be born into rural and remote poverty areas in India means often to begin life with a kind of handicap, accepting a series of diseases, hunger, illiteracy and lack of basic facilities. If in addition a person is born with, or due to some unfortunate circumstances, acquires a disability, s/he must face life with double handicap. The rural disabled are at disadvantage when compared with their access to resources, employment opportunities and rehabilitation. They often comprise the most neglected, marginalized and unlettered of their community, being denied education and the right to enjoy normal social interactions and relationships, as a burden on their families. Main problems they have to face are related to the lack of support at community level, where village Sangams have not formed yet, to the difficulty to have access to Government schemes and medical assistance.
Superstition and the consequent discrimination of the disabled needs to be eradicated, and key members of the community have to be trained to spread awareness, to improve and raise the life standards not only of the disabled themselves, but also of the community as a whole.

The main objective of this project , which received a grant from the Nando Peretti Foundation, is to create and increase the awareness level of the local communities on the needs of the People with Disabilities and on their role in the society, enhancing at the same time their living conditions, both through a social rehabilitation process and vocational training courses to become economically self-sufficient. Only through the strengthening of their leadership qualities and a deeper knowledge on their rights, these people can live a better and with more dignity life.
Promotion of human and civil rights, with a special emphasis on the socio-economic empowerment of the disabled people in the project areas, to increase their dignity through some public awareness campaigns, altogether with medical assistance for the most disadvantaged, are the main sectors of intervention of this project, related to the Foundation's goals.


Specific objectives
Short term
1. Enhancing the consciousness of the public and school going children on disability, its causes and prevention, such as avoiding marriages among relatives, making prenatal screening, etc.).
2. Promoting the rights/concessions/privileges of DaPs, increasing the number of people benefiting of the Government schemes available for them.
3. Promoting the Rehabilitation process of DaPs, facilitating their mobility, enriching their intellectual potentials, enabling their participation in the society, etc.
4. Promoting the economic status of the DaPs through vocational trainings, so they can learn and find a job in their village.
5. Formation and strengthening of Sangams of the DaPs, capacitating the office bearers and making the federation thereby viable.
6. Creating and strengthening the supportive structure like advisory council (that is a group of people as doctors, panchayat raj leaders, schools, banks, village traditional leaders, and all those people that on voluntary base spend some time to increase the welfare of the DaPs. They meet twice a year, and they advice TRED staff to plan for the future and increase their capacities).

Medium-long term:
1. Enhancing the functioning of the Sangams and form a Federation (that is a network of Sangams in a specific geographical area) so that they can become independent, being instruments to catalyse the attention on disability issue and create a concrete social change.
2. Empowering the DaPs through their Sangams and Federation, enabling them to function independently and confidently.

The activities with DaPs in the project are as follows:

1. Preparatory action:
This activity, already started by TRED, consists of the identification/selection of the project beneficiaries among all the DaPs living n the area, as per the results of the preliminary assessment.
Case studies will be filled in altogether with Individual Rehabilitation Plan (IRP), that DaPs have to follow to improve and change their situation. A counselling process will be also organized.
2. Rehabilitation action:
TRED staff will prepare an annual plan of action, in which the IRP will be implemented on monthly basis. Through its own sources, TRED is also planning to sustain some of the most disadvantaged DaPs providing them Medical/Surgical intervention (6 people) and the provision of appliances (10 people). At the same time, physiotherapy/ADLS (Activities for daily living skills) will be also provided on need basis.
3. Community mobilization action:
This activity is fundamental to change the perception people have on DaPs and their role in the society, creating Sangams of PWD and their parents, starting training to office bearers, training on savings and credits, liasoning with District Disable Rehabilitation Office, with local professionals and institutions, forming an Advisory Council. In addition, a cultural group with 15 people will be also formed. During the year of the project it will perform in 10 villages on the DaPs rights, as per the existing laws.
4. Preventive action:
This is another important aspect of the work done by TRED. Aim of it is increasing people's participation in the campaign for vaccination, and also it organizes awareness programme in schools to train youth on the percentage of having children with disabilities marrying a relative, and the lactating mothers to take care of their small children. Some of the cultural programs (5) will be organized in schools and once a year will be celebrated the International Disabled Day.
5. Rights Promoting action:
Aim of this activity is creating linkages with the already existing network on disability at state and national level and participating in campaigns to support and sustain their rights (lobbying for a new law on DaPs), to improve their education and employment opportunities, giving them also a chance to marry each other, etc. The contents of these laws, mainly the PWD Act, will be widespread among the communities living in the project area, starting from the panchayat raj. Once DaPs are aware of their rights, they will actively participate in the society, becoming also members of the Gram Sabha (this is a group of people meeting 4 times a year to discuss about social issues, including the situation and role of the DaPs in the society).

In this initial stage, direct beneficiaries of the project are the members TRED already contacted in 30 villages in Kadambur hills (DaPs, their family members and the community in general). They will be sensitized on the existing laws on different able people and their role in the society, to reduce the level of stigma towards them.

In detail:
a) 30 people each training six times a year (180 people a year), including leaders, volunteers and members of DaPs families will be trained on Governmental schemes, communication skills, creation of linkages with the banks, leadership, book and accounts keeping, health and hygiene (for mothers and young women);
b) 30 people each training four times a year (120 people a year), including DaPs and their family members, SHGs and panchayat raj representatives, village traditional leaders, members of the Government at local level, will be sensitized on the existing laws to protect the DaPs' rights;
c) 15 members, identified among the DaPs and their families, will be part of the cultural group;
d) 20 people in the exposure visits to other organization already formed and operative will learn how to act as leaders of the new Sangams;
e) 20 people will be trained in computer (75% DaPs and 25% youth and community members) and will be sustained in finding a job to improve their socio-economic status;
f) 10 youth will receive some economic support to pay the taxes to attend vocation trainings and learn a job (nurse, computer operator, elettricista);
g) 10 among the most vulnerable families will receive some economic support to start income generative activities (to buy sheep, goat, chicken).
Indirect beneficiaries will be the DaPs families and the entire community living in the villages identified as project area, where awareness and advocacy campaigns on disability and preventive methods (of early child and close-knit marriages, promotion of new born screening, etc.) will be organized to change the negative perception towards DaPs. Other sectors of civil society would also benefit of these campaigns on causes and prevention of disability.

Regarding the operational procedure, this project in particular is implemented by the Indian NGO called TRED (Trust for Rural Education and Development), registered under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) with the number 074040030 (20/09/1994). Fr. Antonysamy is the Operational Director. Staff of this specific project is the project director, a program executive, 4 animators and an accountant cum computer instructor. Mani Tese and TRED started their collaboration to empower the Adhivasi communities in 2002. Even though TRED office is in a hilly region, in Kadambur, they have at their disposal communication facilities such as telephone, fax and Internet, assuring a constant relationship.
TRED has been working since 1994 for the enhancement of the socio-economic conditions of five target groups in Nilgiris and Talavadi Districts, within Tamil Nadu State: women, farmers, PLHIV, Adhivasi, supporting them in the process of constituting People's Organizations, and disabled people. Through the empowerment of these groups and the increment of their capacity building, they learnt how to face and solve their problems on their own. In particular, regarding the disabled people, at present, the project started with them in Talavadi has been entrusted to Guanellians and people's organization has been made independent under their guidance. As a consequence of this, Kadambur hills, which is adjacent to Talavadi, is the location chosen by TRED board to put its experience and expertise at the service of DaP.
In the beginning TRED received some financial support from the local Diocese, diversifying later their funding sources, receiving contribution both from individual and national/international donors, especially from Holland, Germany and Spain.

The activities proposed in the present project will promote the development of the DaPs at different levels, through a Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation approach, addressing their health, economy and education conditions. This is the initial phase of a few years process, already tested in the adjacent area of Talavadi, during which DaPs will have access to health care, vocational trainings and they learn how to manage their credits and savings to become self-sufficient. An awareness action on the issue of disability will support this process among the communities identified as beneficiaries of the project, mainly to change their negative perspective towards the different abled people and boost a preventive mechanisms to reduce the spread of some pathologies.
The project director will ensure the implementation of the programme as per the time schedule, will allocate and coordinate the activities among the staff, and conduct monthly review meetings with written reports to ensure a proper monitoring. He will supervise the maintenance of accounts, vouchers and bills, altogether with attendance, inventories and documentation registers, and the assets, moveable and immoveable. During his periodically visits to the field, he will monitor how the staff way of working, paying attention to build up their capacities as well as their well being, and the project implementation. He will attend the monthly / half yearly / annual evaluation and planning.
The Program Coordinator will coordinate the various activities, catalyzing the formation of village Sangams and committees and ensuring that the various training/activities planned are executed and that the members of the Sangams will be part f them. With the help of the field workers, he will monitor the functioning of the committees in the Sangams, documenting the progress of the program and ensuring they will be linked with the banks. He will consolidate the reports, conduct the weekly review meetings and arrange for monthly assessment sessions. During his periodical field visits, he will extend his support to the field staff. He will liaison with other institutions, departments and government officials, especially District Disabled Rehabilitation Officer, and he will supervise the formation of the Federation as and when they are ready, registering them and organizing the celebration of significance days.
Field staff (4 animators) will focus their work on the formation and the empowerment of Self Help Groups and village Sangams, training leaders, cadres, included women, from among the DaPs through exposure visits, linking them up with banks and federating them. They will keep records of their activities, sit for weekly, half year and annual meetings with their coordinator and prepare written reports for presentation and discussion at the meetings of the staff. At the end of a three years process, the result will be the constitution of a strong CBO for DaPs in Kadambur hills. They will prepare, with the help of the Program Coordinator, the IRP (Individual rehabilitation plan) for each beneficiary, and implement the same within the time scheduled. They will visit villages, update the base line study, build up rapport with the villagers and DaPs, guiding them to have access to the various Government schemes and benefits and to initiate follow up measures on problems and issues.
An accountant cum computer instructor is in charge of maintaining properly the accounts and all the other registers and financial statements, and to train the DaPs beneficiaries to learn how to use the computer.

Through this staff member, TRED a mechanism to monitor the implementation of the project activities through a series of meetings, reports and visits to ensure achieving the objectives:
• Weekly review with the staff by the Programme Coordinator (PCO).
• Twice a year visit to the villages by the PCO and once by the Director.
• Monthly staff meeting with written down reports and planning (result based approach) for the following month with specific targets.
• Annual evaluation in the presence of all the staff, the PCO, the director and representatives of the DaPs (an external resource person will also be present).


At the end of this first year of the project, the identified DaPs will be part of SHGs and Sangams at village level, their leadership skills and their capacity to make advocacy and lobbying with the local Government departments will be increased. Through trainings, they will enhance the knowledge on their rights, and they will be able to look for a remunerative job to increase their socio-economic living standards. The exposure visits to other organizations will help the community members to train themselves on how to develop the organizations in their villages, and on how to work to become sustainable after the end of the project.
Through the participation to some event, such as the World Day of Disabled, and attending to the performances of the cultural groups, the community members will change their attitude towards the DaPs, reducing the level of stigma towards them and mainstreaming them.


Mani Tese
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