For Pratima Gurung from Nepal, empowering indigenous women with disabilities starts with making them count as active participants and decision-makers, not just observers of decisions. She points to the need to strengthen their voices in disability fora, as well as indigenous peoples’ fora.
(19 April 2017)--“I became disabled at seven, when I lost my hand in a truck accident. Suddenly, everything changed. People had different perceptions about my future—what I should do and not do, whether I should go to school, or whether I should get married.
Within my family, I didn’t feel discriminated, but as soon as I left home, I felt it everywhere I went.
My parents moved to another city and it was difficult to adjust to all the changes. I struggled within myself about my disability, even as my parents struggled to care for me and motivate me.
I was lucky that my parents were educated and they never cut any corners with my education. Most indigenous women and women with disability in my country do not get that opportunity like me.
Today, in Nepal, I am leading the advocacy for women with disabilities and indigenous women. Most disabled peoples’ organization, indigenous peoples’ organization and state mechanisms in my country don’t cater to the specific needs and unique realities of indigenous women with disabilities.
With the changing climate and recurring disasters, indigenous women are more at risk than ever before. Some 80 per cent of the total population in the 13 districts impacted by the 2016 earthquake in Nepal were indigenous and dalit (caste) peoples. If a pregnant woman without shelter is doing five hours walk every day to collect water and firewood, she doesn’t even realize how this may impact her baby and her health. Rising psychosocial problem, drought and malnutrition are silently causing disabilities in our children.
Empowering [indigenous women with disabilities] means that we must be at the table making decisions about the issues that affect us.”