“CSR funding can strengthen the ecosystem empowering the Persons with Disabilities”

Dr Aman Preet Kaur is a development professional and has been working with Bajaj Finserv CSR for the purpose of strengthening an ecosystem for persons with disabilities by supporting several organisations across India. She speaks with Neha Ghatpande, senior program officer at CEED about how through CSR, we can enable PwDs in India. 

We would like to know more about the work of enablement that you have been taking up for the persons with disabilities. 

In 2021, we spent some time just knowing the field and realised that the NGOs and organisations working in the field require a lot of support. We started working with small organisations and now we are supporting about 40-45 organisations working for PwDs in various aspects, especially covering the 21 disabilities identified under PWD Act 2016. We work with both physical disabilities and intellectual and developmental disabilities, and based on the PWD Act 2016, we support NGOs which have interventions according to the guidelines given in it. 

Do you think CSR funding can play a greater role in enabling Entrepreneurship and self-employment in this field?

Yes, there is a lot of scope that can be done. For example, we are looking at the technological aspect of helping persons with disabilities. For example, assistive devices for those who are visually impaired or hearing impaired, or technological assistance for those who are identified with intellectual disabilities. Creating these devices, inculcating the technological advancement we have achieved, we are really looking forward to working with such social entrepreneurs. I also think early intervention in terms of intellectual disability would be beneficial for us, and any health tech breakthrough would be a great initiative to support not just us but any CSR funders looking to work in this sector. 

The skill development for the purpose of entrepreneurship and employability has always been an important part of PwDs support system. What kind of challenges have you observed in this regard?

At Bajaj Finserv, skilling is one of our biggest priorities and it extends to PwDs as well which we drive through our partners.  We are working with several organisations that are looking at this aspect such as Amhi Amchya Arogyasathi in Gadchiroli, that facilitates training for PwDs and supports them in the process of starting their own agriculture related small businesses. Another example could be Deepstambh, it is an organisation that helps the PwD students to crack UPSC exams. These are some of the examples, there must be many such organisations that I may not know about. Yet, this is a field with endless possibilities. There may be many white-collar jobs, opportunities in the gig economy for persons with disabilities that can be leveraged if the right training and skill development is provided. I think CSR funds can play a huge role in this by supporting initiatives that provide such training. 

Do you think academia and NGOs can work together for doing research on such issues, creating training modules etc.?

Yes, that is why we are in the process of joining hands with CEED (Centre for Excellence in Entrepreneurship and Development) at Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics (GIPE). In the first phase we would be looking at what are the challenges faced by PwDs and their families while accessing benefits provided by the government policies. I think there is a need for proper research in this field, which will lead to innovation and strong programs of training to enable the lives of persons with disabilities. I think they have a lot of potential that needs to be unpacked through the partnerships of academia and NGOs, and CSR funding can enable this with the right vision.

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