Published: 18th January 2021
Karnataka-based NGO GiftAbled helps diffabled people in rural areas hone skills, earn livelihood
Prarthana Kaul, Founder of GiftAbled speaks about the work her team is doing to help people with disabilities earn a decent livelihood in rural parts of Karnataka, Pune and Kolkata
When Asha, a specially-abled person, made handmade toys with her bare hands, she wanted to sell them. But how was she to go out and do this by herself? That's when her neighbour told her about GiftAbled, an NGO founded in Bengaluru by Prarthana Kaul and Prateek Kaul that works in the interest of specially-abled people in India and helps them earn their livelihood with dignity. Like Asha, many people in rural areas make various a number of products and sell them through GiftAbled to earn a decent income. While the concept sounds interesting, what led Prarthana and Prateek to start this NGO is an even more interesting story. Prarthana recalls, "We started GiftAbled in December 2013 and the whole idea was to empower people with disabilities across different fields in India. As a result, we started conducting different workshops for people with disabilities and teaching sign language was one of them. But even before we could begin our actual projects for disabled people, we realised that there is a lack of awareness among people. For instance, when I communicated with people in sign language, the immediate response was if I or anybody in my family were mute and deaf. We decided to conduct sessions in schools, corporates and other spaces to create awareness about the disabled and disabilities in India."
When all this was going well, Prarthana and her team realised that people with disabilities living in rural areas lacked good education and career opportunities. She explains, "We decided to create employment for specially-abled people so, we opened an inclusive gift store through which we sell the artwork and handicrafts made by them. This helps them earn a decent income for themselves. Last year, CISCO, the IT firm, placed an order for candles to be gifted to 900 employees during Diwali. We were able to deliver it successfully with the help of artists." However, they didn't stop with just employment. They continued to train and skill others so that they could also earn a livelihood. For this, Prarthana and her team conducted workshops across India. It included workshops for fridge magnet making, toy making, basket weaving and bag making. Thousands of people have participated in these workshops and some of them have gone on to set up their own businesses at home.
Through her observation as well as experience, Prarthana feels that the education system in India lacks inclusivity. As a result, many kids who are specially-abled lack access to quality education. She says, "Through our project, Education for Children with Disabilities, we have ensured to retain the existing students and improve enrolment rate, enhance teachers' ability to teach children with disabilities and much more. Among all these objectives that we are trying to achieve, we have also set up a tactile library for visually-impaired students. Last year, we collaborated with a few NGOs and corporates for funding and set up tactile libraries across Karnataka. We set up around 15-20 of them just in this one state. And this effort has benefitted at least 1,000 visually-impaired students. Besides this, we have also set a digital library where visually-impaired students can access the recordings of stories in different languages, NCERT textbooks, state syllabus and exam materials."
For eight long years, Prarthana and her team have been able to make a positive impact on thousands of lives. Having established themselves in Karnataka, she aims to expand her work to the rural areas of West Bengal and Maharashtra in the coming years and impact more people with disabilities.