Sarthak's regional conference on skilling of disabled brings together best industry practices
Hiring a person with a disability is not charity. It makes good business sense. That was the powerful message reiterated at the Regional Conference on CSR for Skilling of Divyangjan, organised by Sarthak Educational Trust in Mumbai.
The two-day event that was aimed at discussing and planning areas of action and best practices for ensuring employment opportunities for the disabled saw a good mix of government representatives, companies, professionals, administrators, and others in the field of disability.
The significance of the event was underlined by the presence of Shakuntala Gamlin, Secretary of the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. While praising the Maharashtra government's efforts to make skill development a partnership project with the corporates, Gamlin emphasised that with RPWD 2016 in place, there was a need to put early intervention mechanisms in place.
"We have to use the resources we have in place like ASHA community workers to ensure that disabilities are spotted at an early stage so the appropriate interventions can take place", said Gamlin.
"Many disabilities are going unnoticed and I am sure that a sizeable number of India's disabled population, about 4-5 crore, are in their productive years" - Shakuntala Gamlin, Secretary, Department of Empowerment of PwD
Gamlin pointed out that while planning skilling programs, efforts should be taken to make sure they are based on the functional requirements of corporates. More attention needs to be given to improving literacy levels of India's disabled population as well.
Much focus was directed on the next steps forward, which was to skill people with disabilities in small cities and rural areas. Sarthak Educational Trust has 13 skill-building centres across India and its founder Dr Jitendra Aggarwal urged the companies present to direct their attention to this neglected corner of India.
"I request corporate CSR to look at activities in small towns so that the disabled in these parts can be trained" - Dr Jitendra Aggarwal, Founder, Sarthak Educational Trust
It was encouraging to see the presence of heavyweights like Mahanagar Gas Limited and Mahindra Financial, which sent a large team to the event. A short film by Siddharth Kak on why employing the disabled is an asset was screened before the conference, which helped set the mood. Companies like Lemon Tree and Costa Coffee talked about how having disabled employees on the workforce has helped scale up productivity levels. Some employers said that a diverse staff has helped them understand customers' needs better.
Kak, who has made many films on disability, urged the media to actively break the myths and stereotypes around disability.
"We had so many stereotypes about cooks, singers or dancers and thanks to TV programs, this has changed. Similarly TV should also help in sensitisation towards the disabled. The media must be trained on how to talk about disability" - Siddharth Kak, Filmmaker
On the second day of the event was a Sashaktikaran – Job Fair for the disabled, held at Sion, where corporates had the opportunity to meet with potential employees. The take away message from the entire event was the only disability is a bad attitude, and how with the right skills ad training, people with disabilities are as good as anyone else.