“As I watched him grow, I wondered how society would accept him. I did whatever I could to make sure he completed his schooling. Employers would hesitate to hire him, merely by looking at his disability.”
“I set up a small shop, thinking that perhaps this might be the support he needs to keep him going,” Suman says of her 24 year-old son, Dinesh Gavit. Theirs is a two-room structure with an asbestos roof, located in Mumbai’s beleaguered green lung, Aarey Colony comprising of grassland, cattle sheds, tribal villages and slums. Dinesh’s family are original inhabitants who have been farming a small land holding for their livelihood. Since he is physically challenged, Dinesh’s parents knew that his disability would not permit him to continue with farming and were anxious about his livelihood prospects.
People with disabilities (PwDs) are subject to multiple deprivations. They are more likely to be out of school. They have much lower employment rates (and the gap is growing). They are subject to strong social stigma within the community, which often becomes internalized. In India, there are approximately 27 million PwDs. Decent work is the best path to self-advancement of PwDs. It underpins the stability of communities and families, and is an integral component of strategies for sustainable growth and development. Skills development thus holds a key to inclusive employment.
AIF’s Ability Based Livelihood Empowerment program (ABLE) is building solid bridges between the world of work and skills training providers specializing in PwDs in order to match skill sets to the needs of enterprises. ABLE leads sustained dialogue between employers, trainers, government institutions, and employment services in an advocacy effort to promote inclusivity at the workplace, thereby opening more job opportunities for PwDs.
In summer, when the temperatures outside are soaring, the asbestos roofing in Dinesh’s home does nothing to ease his living conditions. Surprisingly, he is unfazed by it and gets ready for his work day. Dinesh is a social media and digital marketing assistant with Big Brand Box, an online platform that deals in home products. “I wanted to become an engineer, but we did not have the financial resources for it. So I did the next best thing, which was to pick up computer skills”, he says. Through the ABLE program, Dinesh received train- ing in English, computers, retail, life skills and grooming. During job placement efforts, Big Brand Box selected Dinesh to handle their online order fulfillment, customer inquiries and support. His employer, Priyesh Shah, says, “We recognise that we have a role to play in fostering change within the environment that we are a part of. What sets him apart is that Dinesh values the position that he has been given and does not take things for granted.” Now, Dinesh’s mother, Suman Gavit, no longer worries about what the future looks like for her son.