Deafblind student Asha Patwal’s powerful message wins top award at UN World Data Forum contest
Asha Patwal, a deafblind student from Uttarakhand is among the top three award winners at the prestigious UN World Data Forum contest. In her short video, Asha makes a compelling case for the inclusion of people with deafblindness in the Census.
“We are a tiny spark that can set our nation on fire”.
This powerful line indicates the fire raging within Asha Patwal. The 16-year-old deafblind girl from small-town Rudraprayag in Uttarakhand has won the second prize at the UN World Data Forum video contest.
The ‘1 Minute Voices of Youth Video Competition’ called upon contestants to send an original video showcasing the impact of data on their lives as well as on the world around them.
11 entries from India
The UN World Data Forum operates under the United Nations Statistics Division.
Asha, a student of Sharp Memorial School for the Blind in Dehradun, was born with a vision impairment like her father and two siblings. An attack of meningitis at the age of five left her with profound hearing loss.
Speaking to Newz Hook, Asha said she was delighted with the news.
I am happy and honoured that my message was chosen to be shared at the virtual UN World Data Forum 2020. When the video was made, I was not sure it would even reach such a prestigious platform. I was speaking for every person with a disability in India and I am humbled by this recognition. – Asha Patwal, Winner, UN World Data Forum
There were entries from all over the world for the video contest, 11 from India alone. Asha was the only person from India to make it to the 10 shortlisted. The top prize went to a contestant from Portugal, followed by India.
Asha’s video was created with the support of Sense India, the Ahmedabad-based NGO that works to support people with multiple disabilities. The video was shot by her school principal Sumana Samuel.
“Asha was born with congenital cataract and treatment was delayed”, says Mrs Samuel, who has looked after Asha since she was five years old. “When she came to us at Sharpe Memorial School for the Blind, I referred her to a hospital for surgery and treatment. She was able to recover limited vision and learned to read and write”.
A few years later, during a winter holiday, Asha came down with an attack of meningitis. “She could not hear anything after that”, adds Mrs Samuel. “She also suffered a retinal detachment which led to vision loss in the right eye”.
Asha faced many communication barriers but has been able to overcome them with support. This confident and articulate young girl excels at athletics and art. She also attended a deaf camp in the United States when she was 11 years old. “She has dreams of visiting the US again later”, adds Mrs Samuel.
Message of inclusion
There are over 6.5 million people with deafblindness in India and yet their presence is not reflected in the Census. Hopefully, her win will change that.
Through her video, Asha wants to emphasise the importance of inclusion.
“We need to change the way we collect data so that people with deafblindness are counted in the Census”, she tells Newz Hook. “Like everyone else, we too want to be recognised as equal citizens and get the opportunity to realise our dreams”.
Watch in Sign Language
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