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Rising Flame launches leadership programme for women with disabilities

Mumbai-based non-profit Rising Flame has launched a national leadership programme for women with disabilities. Called I Can Lead, it's a first of its kind in India.

It's a pioneering initiative, one that offers a platform for the self-development and professional growth of young women with disabilities. Mumbai non- profit has launched a programme called I Can Lead Fellows, under which a group of six women from across India will be given intensive one-on-one training aimed at addressing their specific ambitions.

The idea is to offer them a mix of theoretical learning and practical approaches, so they are equipped to address key problems and barriers in their environment and on the path to achieving their goals.

The six women chosen, between the ages of 20 and 35 years, include students, corporate employees and development professionals. They will receive multi-layered mentoring and support throughout the year. The program is a 20-day one spread as continuous contact over the year. 80% of this will be online, 20% will be in person. There is no fee attached to the program.

The multi-layered support is in the form:

  • Individualised mentoring - The program pairs the Fellow with a Mentor, who could be women with or without disabilities who are leaders in their fields. This is to help put in a focused effort to realise their dreams.
  • Group trainings: These will be conducted by the Rising Flame Mentor on specific curriculum designed for the programme on self- development in the first two quarters and professional growth in the last two.
  • Rising Flame Counsellor: Each Fellow will receive counselling and therapeutic support from a Rising Flame counsellor to ensure their mental well-being.
  • Peer learning: The Fellows will also have a Rising Flame buddy to help navigate the course easily and create a friendly peer-learning environment.

The mentors include Stuti Kacker, former chairperson, National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, Meenu Bhambhani, CSR Head, Mphasis, Amba Salelkar, a lawyer with Equals CPSJ, Smitha Sadasivan, disability rights activist, Deepa Palaniappan, disability consultant and policy researcher, and Rising Flame's founder and executive director Nidhi Goyal.

Women and girls with disabilities face a severe invisibility. We not only navigate the complexities of being a woman in a gendered society, we are often overprotected or entirely neglected within our families and communities. Our prospects are even more narrowed by social stigma, protectionism and inaccessible public spaces. As a result, we live within a highly discriminated environment, where we are considered incapable, asexual, and are dehumanised; disrespect and violence is normalised; we have very little opportunity to grow, bloom or to take charge of our lives and realities. - Nidhi Goyal, Founder and Executive Director Rising Flame

This lack of support leads to women with disabilities being functionally excluded from building an independent and productive future for themselves and for others, which makes a programme like I Can Lead critical, believes Nidhi.

Since its inception in 2017, Rising Flame has been working towards enabling people with disabilities to find a voice, space and build skills to lead from the front.

Among the Fellows chosen is Nalini S from Bengaluru.

"I have no confidence and find myself unable to speak up in a group", says Nalini, who works with the impact enterprise v-shesh. "Through this leadership programme, I want to change that. I want to improve my confidence levels and leadership skills".

Another Fellow, Shreelekka Sriram, another I Can Lead Fellow hopes to learn the skills needed to express her thoughts easily. "I also want to learn how to build a network skills and communicate better".

The others chosen for I Can Lead are Kavya Mukhija, Asharani Devaiah, Srishti Pandey and Pratishtha Deveshwar. "Through I Can Lead, I want to unleash a stronger version of myself, a version that is more confident", says Kavya.

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