Swabhiman – Broken in Body but not in Spirit
Broken in body but not in spirit’ is the catch phrase that propels ‘SWABHIMAN’. Actually the need for an independent organization in Odisha capable of providing information relating to any aspect of disability gave birth to the Disability Information & Resource Centre, SWABHIMAN. Born on 1st of December 2001, it evolved to become the lead organization in working towards self-determination, providing equal opportunities and fighting for the self-respect of the disabled people.
Dr Sruti Mohapatra, herself a handicapped on wheelchair, is the founder and Chief Executive of SWABHIMAN. She is also the Chairperson of the Odisha State Commission for protection of Child Rights. For someone with faith and determination, the odds of life cannot be a deterrent. A living example of such indomitable spirit is Sruti Mohapatra whose life changed forever after a near fatal accident.The accident left her paralysed waist below. But despite being confined to the wheelchair, she did not allow her spirit to be chained. After struggling for two years in the hospital, Sruti found her strength in her family and began working for the disabled in her home state, Odisha.
In 2001, 14 years after her accident, Sruti founded ‘ SWABHIMAN’ . Step by step, Sruti covered ground and forced the government and authorities to take notice of her initiative. The 3 per cent reservation in government jobs for disabled was not being implemented in Odisha. Sruti lobbied hard to make sure it was followed in letter and spirit. Accessibility to public places for disabled was never given a priority but Sruti fought this issue as well and ensured that not just government buildings but the world famous Jagannath temple in Puri made special access for the disabled. She got the University Grants Commission to agree to set up a Department of Disability Studies in every University across the country.
What makes her special is the ability to reach out to the less fortunate, something for which she derives the strength from the personal battles she has waged. More than her personal victories, her triumph lies in her determination to change the lives of those in despair.
ANJALI’ commenced as a joyful learning project of Swabhiman. A cherished festival of literary, creative and performing arts for young audiences, it has been educating, entertaining and inspiring young minds from across India since 2001 in the city of Bhubaneswar.
It was also born in 2001 alongwith SWABHIMAN. The annual Children Festival was also held this year from 11th to 14th November at Bhubaneswar and saw massive participation from all over the country. The imagination and creative brilliance of children from across the country met with an explosion of colour , adventure and fun at ANJALI National Childrens Festival ‘2014. There were a huge range of workshops, competitions, cultural programs, musical performances and exhibitions in the 2014 edition.
From just 77 children 13 years back, the ANJALI Children Festival crossed 25,000 in attendance this year, a true testimony to its ever growing appeal . It has truly lived up to its mission of capturing the imagination, creative spirit and curiosity of the children.
From its very inception , SWABHIMAN has had been celebrating the International day (3rd December) for persons with disabilities. SWABHIMAN came up with its programme , “Colours Love” this year to mark the day. The vibrant day long programme was aimed at sensitizing people and to create awareness on the issues related to disabilities .
Students from different colleges of Bhubaneswar joined hands with the volunteers of SWABHIMAN to celebrate the day. The volunteers conducted many activities to sensitize the public. Mock simulating exercises were undertaken to increase sensitivity of the younger generations towards disability and make them realize the challenges faced by differently abled persons in their day to day lives.
Dr.Sruti Mohapatra was herself present on the occasion. Speaking to ONI on the sidelines of the event Dr Sruti Mohapatra said, “Today is a day of celebration. We are trying to show how normally the disabled can place themselves in every sphere of the society. It is a ‘celebration of diversity’.”
“My vision is of an inclusive world. I believe we are capable of dreaming of a utopia and making it a reality. We can and must create an inclusive world, a world where the human spirit of co-existence triumphs over discord and a world in which we are all able to live a life of well being and dignity. Together, we can make a difference.’’, added Dr Sruti Mohaptra.
We can just say Amen to this and pray that this unique woman and her wonderful organization keep up their fantastic work and efforts.