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These disabled women are making prosthetic aids that are enabling mobility for others

Today is the 22nd anniversary of the Rehabilitation Aids Workshop by Women with Disability. Since its foundation, the organisation has been empowering thousands of disabled people across India with prosthetics and other supporting devices. Today we bring you the stories of some of these incredible women.

A B. Com graduate, Venkatanaayanamma had given up on the prospect of ever finding a job. Despite her qualifications, no one would hire her as she is disabled. Then a friend told her about the Rehabilitation Aids Workshop by Women with Disability (RAWWD) in Bengaluru.

Launched in 1997, this NGO aims to empower women with disabilities by training them how to make prosthetics and other supporting devices. 23-year-old Venkatanaayanamma, who joined here three years ago, is already an expert at making Dennis-Brown Baby Splints, given to babies with clubfoot.

"I had polio as a child and after much hardship completed my graduation. Still, I was dependent on my family. I was not able to earn anything, and it was quite frustrating", she recalls.

Equality for disabled women

RAWWD was established with the sole aim of changing the lives of women like Venkatanaayanamma, says Indira Moses, the finance and administrative manage here.

RAWWD was started to promote equality of women with disabilities. Through our network of NGOs, we identify women who are disabled, train them in making orthotics, prosthetics and other appliances for disabled people. Then we place them in jobs at RAWWD for three years post which they can move on to another organisation if they wish to. - Indira Moses, Rehabilitation Aids Workshop by Women with Disability

Anyone who has completed class 12 can apply for the training programme, with science students getting a preference. Non-science students can join as well but they are put through some additional classes. The training is for free, including accommodation and study materials.

Most trainees come from rural parts of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, mainly lower economic group families, says Indira. "They are born without disability but within a year of birth, they come down with a fever and suffer paralysis or polio". Their financial background maginalises them further.

Celebrating the change

Life has changed now for Venkatanaayanamma. "I am earning a regular income and am able to support my family. It has made me independent and I get a lot of respect a home. Best part is that I am doing something to help other disabled people".

The oldest member of the programme Noor Jan perhaps best embodies the change RAWWD has enabled. The 50-year-old never used any supportive appliances, nor did she leave her home until she joined the programme. Here, she has learned English and commutes by public transport using calipers in the legs and bilateral crutches.

"I earn ₹25,000 a month here and contribute to the household", says Noor Jan, the pride evident in her voice. A specialist in footwear modification, she is much in demand.

A common problem faced by all trainees is the lack of familiarity with the English language. Knowledge of English is essential to understand the para medical training and technical information. To overcome this, there are lessons in basic English given at the start. Additionally, a team of employees from multinational Accenture India come to RAWWD every Saturday for sessions in communication and language skills.

RAWWD supplies prosthetics and orthotics to NGOs, hospitals as well as individuals across India. In Bengaluru, teams go to people's homes to take measurements to make customised appliances. It also conducts regular health camps and programmes in schools to check for disabilities.

VISIT: Rehabilitation Aids Workshop by Women with Disability for details. Or CALL: +91 - 9480775173

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