“Gokul’s dream has come true and so has ours, thanks to his job. Before, people ignored him, almost like he didn’t exist. Today, he is respected,” says Bharathi Prasath, Gokul’s mother with great pride.
Gokul Prasath has a disability which prevents him from being able to comprehend, learn and problem-solve. In India, disability is met with dismissiveness, avoidance, fear, and stigma especially in employment. People with disabilities find it difficult to get employment and care for themselves and their families. Of those who do find work, an overwhelming 98.5% work in the informal economy, lacking access to critical social and financial services.
Gokul’s family income was a meagre Rs 12,000 a month. Despite this, when Gokul was five years old, his parents enrolled him in a special school hostel, where he showed an affinity and keenness for sports. Soon, he began to excel in sports, worked hard, and won many prizes. his parents were convinced that Gokul could do better by developing other skills, if he received the right guidance and training.
Gokul enrolled in AIF’s Ability Based Livelihood Empowerment (ABLE) program, which trains persons with disabilities and facilitates their entry into the job market through advocacy, thus promoting inclusive growth in India. At the Anbalaya Special School for the Intellectually Challenged, Gokul cleared his class 10 exams, learned to make paper cups, and tried his hand at catering.
With newly acquired skills, Gokul has emerged as a confident young man. He works as a store assistant at the Gold Super Market in Chennai, travelling to work on his own,navigating his way through the bustling city confidently. He is financially independent and contributes to his family.
“He loves his job and feels he is contributing to society. At Diwali, he spent his first salary of Rs 3,500 on celebrations with us,” says Gokul’s mother.
At work, he efficiently packs and arranges products and cleans the store. The skills training he received at the ABLE program, has enhanced his personality and improved his inter-personal skills, enabling him to communicate well with customers and store colleagues.
Radhalakshmi Ganesan, Gokul’s manager at Gold Super Market is pleased with Gokul’s performance and says he is a good worker.
In keeping with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), through its ABLE program, AIF promotes and advocates full and equal participation of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs). The program offers an inclusive environment for empowerment, skill development training, and employment opportunities for sustainable livelihoods (SDG 8). And, through disability inclusion, AIF has been accelerating reduction in inequalities (SDG 10).