Executive committee of Independent Living Society (ILS)-Nepal decided to appoint Mr. Hem Bahadur Gurung and Ms. Anjana K.C. as the male and female staff members respectively according to the action plan of the project drawn on 30th August 2014. On 7th September Independent Living Society (ILS)-Nepal selected 3 Personal Assistants. It was the first experience for us. Vacancy announcement was made through a local newspaper for the posts of required Personal Assistants. 15 interested individuals applied so far for the posts. 3 out of those 15 individual were selected at last. They were Mr. Sudhir Gauli, Ms. Ranjata Regmi and Ms. Jamuna Nepali. Before the selection we conducted an orientation program on general concept of Independent Living, disability movement and Personal Assistance service. An experience-sharing session was also held with past volunteers and persons with disabilities. Likewise, they were taught how to handle a wheelchair.
On 9th September, ILS-Nepal held a general discussion session among its board members and new staff members on ‘Independent Living Program’ (ILP). Participants expressed their view that they became more aware about the ILP because they had seen the role models from Japan who had visited Pokhara during the seminar.
On 11 September, the sharing the concept of ‘personal assistance service’ session was carried out among board members and newly selected personal assistant staff members. A discussion was held about the importance of assistance service as well as its role and responsibilities.
Now we have 3 personal assistants available in our office. We have been able to carry out different kinds of official work very easily with their support. Similarly, we can easily participate in the programs organized by other organizations using personal attendants. It has become easier for us even to go shopping and organize recreational activities whenever needed. Those personal assistants have also been assisting the board members in commuting between home and office when there is a formal program being organized at the office. The same way, they have been providing assistance services to the persons with severe disabilities who have started living independently. In Nepal, female staff has restriction to stay in service not after 7 pm because of social taboo.
On 13th September, a one-day orientation on peer counselling was held at ILS office among board members and newly selected staffs. The session was facilitated by Mr. Chet Prasad Adhikari; Secretary of our organization. A short drama was performed by the participants during the session for better understanding of the principle and practice. On the occasion, Anjana also highlighted the importance of time management and active listening for the peer counselling service. She also talked about the importance of ‘tension back key’ which is a major element of peer counselling process.
Accessibility is still a big challenge in Nepal. Public places and government offices lack accessible environment but in the newly built government office namely ‘Income Tax Office,’ at least the main entrance is equipped with a well-built ramp. But other old and newly built office premises are not accessible as expected. On 21st September, our team visited Office of Women and Children in Pokhara as a part of our barrier free check program. The Office is also the authorized body for delivering disability identity card for persons with disabilities. We found the the entrance accessible as there was a wide ramp but toilet was not accessible because there was two huge door steps. So we have officially handed over a request letter to build a new accessible toilet so that persons with disabilities who visit there to receive service would find a convenient environment in terms of using toilet.
We have been doing advocacy work for the rights of persons with disabilities for years. But most of us were not well educated about general principles and practices of advocacy. So we conducted a one-day orientation on ‘Advocacy’ for the board members and newly recruited staffs on 24th September. A lawyer named Mrs. Sarala Kumari Pandey was appointed as the resource person for the program. She is also working as the women’s rights activist in Pokhara. But it was her first experience to interact with the disabiled community. That’s why she had not known about the real issues of persons with disabilities, though her session was fruitful in terms of advocacy. It was like a two-way learning for her and for us as well.
There are some government services available to persons with disabilities. Provision of disability identity card, disability allowance, tax free for importing four wheel scooter are some examples. But there are government officials who pretend not to know about the tax exemption system, which is a big problem for us. A disabled person named Mr. Prem Gurung attempted to receive a recommendation letter for tax free process from the District Administration Office (DAO) but he was denied it by the concerned office. He said that government officer was unaware about the system so he was compelled to return home with disappointment for several times. He then visited our office and asked us to support him on the case. On 24th September, our team went to the concerned office with a testimony and talked to the authority. Eventually, he was provided with a recommendation letter to import tax free four wheel scooter from India as a result of our strong advocacy. One of our board members, Mr. Bharat Baniya, facilitated to bring the scooter from Lukhnow, India to Pokhra, Nepal, that took almost 6 days. Now, Mr. Prem is very happy to have four wheel scooter.
It is a great challenge to bring a drastic change immediately in the society. We all know that it takes time for such changes. But we believe that a good beginning is like a half done. In September, ILS-Nepal accomplished various activities according to the action plan. The followings are the outcome so far we have achieved:
One female person with disability and one male person with disability staff along with 3 personal assistants were recruited for the smooth running of ILS-Nepal.
Board members and new staffs were provided an orientation on the core components of Independent Living concept like personal assistance service (PAS), ILP, peer counselling and advocacy. They understood them well and are now able to talk about the concepts clearly with other people.
Use of personal assistance service has increased the level of social exposure of persons with disabilities out in town. This has resulted in that more people in the local community seem to be knowledgeable about the reality of situation persons with disabilities are in.
Level of gathering of board members and staffs has increased at the office that has enabled us all to share the ideas for issues of persons with disabilities and further steps of movement to take at the local level. Similarly, direct or indirect links and networks are being started at the both national and international levels.
We have been doing our best but still have certain limitations or challenges for proper implementation of our action plan. The followings are the examples:
We would like to remind you that the action plan for October is clearly mentioned in the proposal submitted. Accordingly, we would put all our efforts into implementing the action plan. The most important thing is that there takes place the second biggest festival of Nepal called ‘Deepawali’ in October. Our organization is going to run a fund raising program called ‘Deusibhailo’ for consecutive 3 days. It needs time for preparation to make success of the program. On one hand, such a program can enhance the happiness as well as unity among the members and, on the other hand it will help us improve the financial condition of the organization through fund raising. Moreover, it is a kind of 3-day extensive movement that helps to raise the awareness in the community about disability issues. Additional advantage of this event is that we can utilize the collected funds for future programs to strengthen our movement in Pokhara.
We have done lots of work in September though some limitations were there. But we all enjoyed a lot performing in a team for the movement. A wheelchair user from Pakistan named Mr. Shahab Udin has visited us in Pokhara for attending a wheelchair workshop hosted by BIKAS-Nepal and at the same time it was our great pleasure to have a meeting with him and share about the disability movement of Pakistan and Nepal. He mentioned that Mr. Shafiq Ur Rehman, a great leader of IL movement of Pakistan, who belongs to Milestone IL Centre, had asked him to visit Pokhara IL and share the ideas prior to his departure from his country. He was really impressed to see our movement and extended his best wishes for further success of IL movement in Pokhara. The support we gained from Japan has improved the situation of ILS-Nepal and its members in terms of IL movement in Pokhara. We would humbly like to request you to provide us invaluable comments and feedback on this report so that we could improve our performance in coming days. Thank you very much.
This report was written by:
Mr. Hem Bahadur Gurung (General Secretary) and Ms. Anjana K.C. (Treasurer) of ILS-Nepal