In the dusty back alleys of a rural town in Eastern Uttar Pradesh, CBM and our local partners were led to a brick house opposite the open wheat fields synonymous with this part of the country. The occupants of the household were all present except for the main participant of the project, a young woman named Meera. As we were greeted and welcomed by her extended family members we were immediately presented with a small paper file which consisted of certificates and paper clippings associated with Meera’s story and the success she had achieved as a result of her identification at the beginning of the project. I was also intrigued to learn that Meera’s absence was due to her employment in Lucknow which was acquired after vocational training and support she received due to her participation in the Parivartan Project.
It was explained to me that Meera had acquired a physical disability in her youth due to a motor vehicle accident. It had left her incapacitated and unable to obtain further education or learning opportunities. However, when the Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) workers associated with the project conducted door knocking identification studies within her community, village members pointed Meera out as a potential participant in activities. When Meera was first identified in 2012 she was unable to walk without assistance. However, in the time that immediately followed, she was financially supported to receive corrective surgery and regular physiotherapy which allowed her to walk freely without the use of assistive devices.
The community based rehabilitation workers also assisted Meera in becoming a member of the local Disabled People’s Organisation, obtaining a disability certificate and in turn joining an Inclusive Self Help Group. It was at this stage that Meera expressed a desire to engage in further study and vocational training which was funded through the revolving loan aspect of her Self Help Group. After the training she managed to acquire a job at a business in a big regional city and started in a role earning Rs: 7000/-per month. This equates to approximately AU$143 – which is considered quite a lot in this context as an average agricultural farmer would be earning less than AU$2 a day. At present having worked for more than a year and excelling in her role she is now earning Rs: 9500/- per month as her salary, approx AU$194.
As I looked into the eyes of her father, I was met with a true sense of pride. It would have seemed completely unfathomable a few years ago that a father within this village would allow his daughter living with a disability to have a vocation, let alone pursue that career path in a big city more than 4 hours away. I reflected on the attitudinal change that had occurred in this family when they had seen Meera’s capability to not just function on her own, but also generate an income outside of her household. My curiosity had led to me to ask her father directly what his intentions for Meera would be into the future especially as she was in her mid 20s and still unmarried, something quite unheard of within this village context. His answer surprised me as much as it drew further hope in me. He conveyed that the family was committed to supporting Meera in her future career and education pursuits and there were no immediate plans for her marriage on the horizon.
There, in this small dust covered village, I had discovered not only attitudinal change towards girls’ education, but behavioural change in delaying the onset of marriage in order to further this young woman’s career. I couldn’t help but imagine what Meera’s path would have been if not for the intervention of the CBR workers under the Parivartan project. By being identified, having the opportunity to access corrective surgery and supported to join an Inclusive Self Help Group, Meera had been provided with all the tools necessary to change her life and that of her family’s forever into the future. As I left her household I couldn’t help but notice the sentiment of the other young women in her village whose steely and hope filled eyes reflected the catch cry of ‘if Meera can do it, then so can I’.
© CBM Australia