Most people find social sector services to be fascinating and to work with fascinating people. The founder of ‘Action,’ a city-based group, proves that to be untrue. Pragyan Behera the founder of the group says it’s the most non-fascinating job where one works with the most fascinating people of the world. Let’s discover the unfold minds.
She was fond of colours. She wished to learn from nature. She wanted to become a teacher. But she ended up working in her own family business. “Am I getting diverted from my narration? I am a special woman. People say it’s differently-abled,” says Sonal Misra, a local resident at Phulbani.
Though the differently-abled people too are born to live. But, chunk into circle of vicious form, the world does not seem normal to them. It has been a tough and rough journey for them.
Sonal lived a normal life with her three siblings and parents. The world was complete for her. But she found a different world with other differently-abled people.
“Everyday I wake up morning 5 and start laying the jute sticks to create something new. The smell of the raw wood is all that I have known. The beauty I appreciate had always become the jute products of different manner. I realise the huge differences that’s been created gradually with time between what I wish to do and what I have been doing,” griefs she.
She misses schools, the playgrounds and the creative art she wishes to do. “My daughter did go to school as normal kids go. Gradually within a year she was unable to cope up with the studies physically and mentally. Unable to read and write. We understood the sign when she was having a regular stomach problem and when visited the doctors they found she was having an abdominal issues and had undergone a surgery,” explains Sonal’s mother Rajlaksmi.
“She later found it uneasy to go to school with a hanging urine bag which became a part of her life,” adds Rajlaksmi.
Many women like Sonal face the ugliest sight of life and somehow get lost in-between the journey of youth and to the attainment of womanhood. They find themselves giving up the hope of ever becoming a mother.
The ‘Action’ plan
To preserve the womanhood for these special women Pragyan Behera, the founder of Action took an initiative and started a ‘fashion show’ programme for the differently-abled women and fill their lives with joy and enthusiasm. Is it all about beauty? No, she is trying to fill colours in the heart and soul of women along with imparting education and ability to start their own business for their sustenance.
“We have conducted nearly 35 self confidence building programme for nearly 250-300 differently-challenged women in last six months. The concept initially did not impress the audience of contesting fashion show with the differently-abled women. Later it became one of the most successful programmes and many non-profit organisations have adopted the concept,” says Behera.
Behera along with her action plan, ‘Action’, assists the differently-abled women in society and that includes the physically and mentally challenged. The organisation creates awareness about those with special needs in the society.
Action was founded in August 1998, on an initial contribution of 1,000 each from the different members along with the unconditional support of family and friends. When it first began, Behera visited rural villages like Kendrapara, Jharsungada, Khurda, Angul and Jagatsingpur to find out how the women fared as adults. She sought the help of these women and informed their families of the vocational training opportunities that Action offered.
Talking about why she started the group, she says, “I heard about the problems that these special women are facing. It was a good way for me to give back to society.” She enjoys spending time with her fellow members and stays awake all night working, if needed. “It’s a full-time commitment, but we all take into consideration each other life. We realise we have family commitments so we make sure they are given enough time.”
“Our group is doing a lot to improve the lives of women,” mention Behera. Today Action’s biggest challenge is in finding more differently-challenged women. “In past few months I am glad our team has done a lot to size up the numbers of the differently-abled women. Still the biggest challenge ‘Action’ faces are to search these special women in different parts of the state. As many of them are unaware about the assistance our group and government are providing collectively,” further adds Behera.
The ‘Action’ is thus looking forward to give support for each and every special woman helping them grow through education and work opportunity.
Anjum Sahani, the senior programme manager at Action, says, “We are glad that in past one year we have been able to place nearly 100 special women in small scale industries and nearly 20 of them in private firms.”
The group has more than 100 trained women who are working in different areas and field where they can place these special women after imparting training and skills. “To motivate and convince them for training has always been a huge challenge for our group,” adds Behera.
Connectivity stood another hindrance for the group. Pratima though wishes to get trained by the group the distance for her home to the training area made her mobility weak. She never gave it up. She travels 15km twice a day and tries to fill meaning in her life. “I find my work more interesting then sitting ideally at home and watching skies and stars who even form a different sketch every day,” smiles she.
Fahima Begum one of the members of Action shares her initial experience. “I can never forget my first day in this new world. The first hand shake, the first time I spelt my name so loud. The first time I felt so normal being with other special women. The first time I felt I am not alone in this journey to bring difference in my life,” shares Begum.
The members of the group indulge in various activities. Sulekha, a young girl, makes a bag full of mint chocolates every day. “She religiously comes to our class every day. Does her given assignment and make chocolates which she eats, share and distribute with all fun and happiness. She cannot speak,” says Behera.
Another trainee of the group Divya, mentally-challenged has overcome the biggest hindrance of her limitation. She can memorise and recite maths and poems. She is presently getting prepared for National General Knowledge Vocabulary contest, adds Behera.
Meditation, tour visits and interaction have always been the USP of the Action classes to groom the women for a better world.
Adding help to the Action group, the government has even come up with plans like launching an official website for differently-abled women and children especially. The website will have upcoming news for employment policy for disabilities and facilitates equal access to electronics and information and communication technologies (ICTs).
The websites are not yet ready and still lack the web content accessibility. “We wish the government soon to come up with this plan which can actually help the special women to grow and prosper more,” adds Behera.