Helping Others Is My Only Respite
Aparna* lives in a quaint little village of Bikaner with her parents, two brothers and one sister-in-law. She has orthopaedic disability since a very young age but has been managing her day-to-day affair without any assistive device. She has difficulties in lifting bags and other objects while walking. Aparna is 30 years old and works extensively in an NGO, for the 1098 Childline. Her regular work entails counselling estranged runaway children and assist the team to help rehabilitate them. She is one of the leaders of the district Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO) and her major work entails advocacy with the government for the rights of Persons with Disability (PWDs). She is quite an active member of the DPO and is well acquainted with the RPWD Act and understands her rights and entitlements. While talking to her over the phone, she sounded agitated about the lockdown.
“It’s like living in a jail” she said. She expressed that curbing of the freedom to move at your will is one of the worst things that can happen to a human being. She misses working for the Childline with her team and doing advocacy work with other DPO members. She informed that cases of child abuse have increased manifold, and she feels helpless for not being able to do much about it. She was going to get married in April this year for but it was postponed due to the lockdown. Their house was renovated for the wedding day, and there is still some unfinished work. Everything has come to a standstill and the stress of paying back the loaned money for the wedding is increasing on her parent every day. Her marriage discussion is a common topic in the house regularly which leaves her feeling sad. She somehow feels responsible for her parent’s stress. At home, she helps her mother and sister-in-law with household chores. She recognises that the burden of household work has increased for women during the lockdown. Even at her home, none of the men help in any work.
The only thing that makes her feel good is working with the local administration with food distribution to persons with disabilities in her village. She has a list of PWDs of her village whom she calls regularly to inform them about the latest updates on Covid-19, how to take care and be safe, how to wash hands and importance of social distancing. She listens to their woes and provides emotional support over the phone. Her focus right now is to reach out to as many persons with disabilities as possible who have issues in accessing food and information. She is intensely involved with the local administration to ensure that, first the deprived persons with disabilities get enlisted for receiving food packets, second, they receive the food packets regularly, and third, women have access to sanitary napkins. This is a challenging work because one cannot go from door to door to carry out surveys and help people as only government health workers and NGO volunteers are given the permission for it. Because of her disability, Aparna is unable to go door to door herself, however, she is carrying out advocacy using her phone and negotiating skills. She feels proud to be a working woman today as she recalls that she had very less confidence while growing up and never received encouragement from anyone that she would ever have a job and earn her own money. Being a DPO member has given her the will and confidence to voice the needs of the persons with disabilities of her village before the local administration to ensure that they do not remain deprived of necessities during this lockdown period. Today she feels proud that she has accomplished a lot of things as a DPO member and a social worker in an NGO and cannot wait to go back to her office and meet her colleagues. She misses her outings with her friends. She misses her freedom.
*Name changed on request