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Inspiration is just a phone call away thanks to EnAble Vaani

Making ends meet was a struggle for Ajmal from Tumkur, Karnataka. His monthly earning of Rs 500 doing odd jobs was barely sufficient to support his family, which included five children. Ajmal, who is physically disabled, also lacked the motivation to think big and change his life.

Then he heard a story on Namma Vaani about people who had overcome the challenges of disability to become successful entrepreneurs.

"That story changed my thinking," recalls Ajmal. "I asked around and did some research on how I could apply for loans to start my own business. I found all the information I needed on Namma Vaani and got a loan to start a petty shop. Today, I earn Rs 2,400 a month."

An EnAble India, initiative Namma Vaani is an audio-based mobile social networking platform that reaches out to people with disabilities in rural Karnataka. There is a sister platform in Hindi called Hamari Vaani, which caters to people in north India. Both rely on voice connectivity and are aimed at helping the disabled population learn about policies, and education and employment opportunities, among others. Hamari Vaani has a pan-India presence.

We wanted to reach out to people with disabilities in rural areas where there is no Internet, only mobile phones to help them gain independence. We have seen people share many things, ranging from what they need from the government in terms of policies, job opportunities, and inspirational stories, to name a few. - Nandini Kavita, Senior Executive, EnAble Vaani

Also offered are lessons in English grammar, introduced after popular demand. The platforms are open to people of all ages, across all disability types. "About 40% of the audience is made up of girls and women," adds Kavita. "They ask about Aadhar, seek career guidance, and focus on becoming independent."

Community driven content

All users have to do is call 92663-44111 to access Namma Vaani and 92663-442222 for Hamari Vaani. They can record their queries, and this is then edited and published by the EnAble Vaani team. On an average, the team gets 200 audio recordings a day.

The content is primarily put forward by the community and this is monitored by the team before it is posted in the public domain, says Sujaya Sastry, who is a Content Moderator. "There is a platform where we get all the audio recordings people send. We check them to ensure they can be published and then edit them to give it shape. No personal questions are posted, there is a separate platform for that."

Care has to be taken to ensure that the queries are answered as per specific state level policies. "Today all states are contributors to the Hamari Vaani platform," says Rosaline Mary, Project Officer, "and while the questions are the same, different states have different rules, so we have to answer the questions with care."

There are some challenges specifically linked to the spoken Hindi language, points out Richa Gaur, Project Manager, EnAble India. "The way people speak Hindi differs and so does the disability network. If a person from Uttar Pradesh is putting up information about making a disability certificate, it will differ from rules in Odisha. These are some of the problems associated with expansion."

Small issues that fade away when one looks at what the platform has been able to achieve. Most recently, a blind roadside singer in Karnataka, Murali, was invited to sing in the state assembly and at a major religious festival after he recorded his voice on Namma Vaani. He even got funds for his child's surgery.

Going ahead, EnAble India is looking at launching a specific platform for each state like Namma Vaani. There are plans to go global as well with countries like Ethiopia showing an interest. Clearly, this unique initiative has the potential to change the lives of disabled people, worldwide.

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