Nine disabled women spend their days in a workshop in Bangalore, manufacturing prosthetic limbs and other aids at Rehabilitation Aids Workshop by Women with Disabilities (RAWWD). Forgetting their own disabilities, they focus on how to make things easier for others in their situation. Their project manager, Sugirtha, tells Anne-Marie Prayas about their courage, hard work and will to survive in a society that has abandoned them.
How and when was RAWWD initiated?
RAWWD was initiated by Mobility India, a non-governmental organisation, in 1997. We are their only project, which is run by disabled women. RAWWD had always been Mobility India's dream project but now we have grown so much that they are our partners.
How many disabled women are working with you and what kind of disabilities do they have?
We have nine disabled women working with us. Of them, eight are orthopaedically disabled and one is mentally challenged. The orthopaedically disabled women have been afflicted by polio in their legs but they do not let that come in the way of their work. The ninth lady helps out in the office with minor administrative jobs.
What kind of things do the women make?
They make all kinds of prosthetic devices; callipers, crutches, walkers, belts, back-braces, cervical collars, special shoes and various other aids for adults and children suffering from orthopaedic impairments. These ladies go out to various hospitals and nursing homes in the city and take orders and measurements. They then come back and make the aides with their own hands. Due to their experience, they are even able to prescribe remedial aids to their customers. Their work has never brought any complaints and customers rely on them whole-heartedly.
How were they initiated into this work? Did the work help them develop as individuals?
All these women hail from very poor backgrounds. Due to their disabilities, their families disowned them and left them to fend for themselves. The main aim of Mobility India was to rehabilitate disabled women who had been abandoned by their families. Hence these women got enrolled with us. All these women exhibited great determination to earn their own livelihood. We then gave them a year's training in the Vocational Rehabilitation Centre and set up the workshop for them. From then on there was no looking back. Most of these women got married and have families and children of their own. Their monthly income varies from Rs 3,000- 3,500 after manufacturing 50-60 aids. They take great pride in being responsible contributors towards their families. They don't see themselves as disabled anymore and financial independence has given them a whole new perspective on life.
What are your future plans for RAWWD?
At present the workshop is based in two rooms of Cheshire Home. Though the home does not take any rent for the place, RAWWD repays them by making free aids for the Cheshire Home's patients. However, we hope we can set up our workshop in a larger area so that productivity will increase. Our women, though disabled have to travel all over the city in public buses. They have never complained but one can only imagine the inconvenience they go through. We hope that sometime in the future, we can purchase a vehicle to set up a mobile workshop. That way they can comfortably visit several hospitals in a day and yet not lose out on work time.
If you would like to help RAWWD, contact them at (080) 25272811 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org