India is a diverse country with multiple cultures, traditions, languages and religions. We like to call ourselves an inclusive society, a society which looks beyond differences and is equal to all. However, we don’t take into account the differently-abled population. India is home to nearly 27 million differently abled people; they constitute 2.21% of the total population. However, they are discriminated against at every stage, right from early education till becoming a part of the employable population. Many of the work places are inaccessible to them, so even if they manage to secure a job, continuing it becomes a challenge.
Digital Empowerment Foundation through its various programs is making an attempt to provide opportunities to persons with disabilities. The GOAL (Going Online as Leaders) Samarth mentorship program connects them with mentors who guide them and help them gain confidence. Since this is a group mentorship program they also get the opportunity to bond with other persons with disabilities; this helps them share their challenges and difficulties and discuss potential solutions. It gives them a new peer group that understands them and their problems much better.
After this, the now confident and capable mentee is given digital infrastructure and with the already provided digital training, the mentee is empowered to run a digitally equipped service centre- they become Samarth SoochnaPreneurs. So from seeking help, they become solution providers to the people in their village. The job of a Samarth SoochnaPreneur is to provide access to information, e-health, online education, digital financial services and e-governance.
Seeing the success of the mentorship and entrepreneurship program, DEF with the support of EquallyAble Foundation and Accenture is now scaling up the program to reach 500 persons with disabilities who will not only be empowered to lead better lives but will also provide digital services to the people in their village.