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Suman’s story

Suman, a 20-year-old, using her tailoring machine mounted on a table outside her house.
© CBM
Suman is supported through a livelihood project by CBM. She start earning through the sewing machine and goats she bought through loans financed under the project

Suman is no longer restricted by barriers that impacted her in the past and is keen to share how opportunities and inclusion can change lives and perceptions.

A tragic fire accident at the age of six left Suman Salame with a bone contraction and loss of movement in her left arm. The condition no longer affects her independent functioning but as a young girl, the reactions from the community turned it into a ‘disability’.

Now a 20-year-old, Suman from Athner in Betul district of Madhya Pradesh, is stepping out of discrimination created by stereotypes about people with disabilities, especially women with disabilities, in the community due to low levels of awareness.  

Just a little girl, when the accident took place, Suman can still recall her cries of pain while being rushed to a government hospital nearby. She was later moved to another hospital as she needed a surgery for her a badly charred arm. Though the surgery was successful, she could no longer use her left arm.  

“My mother used to often break into tears seeing my condition. But she stood by me until I had the strength to start taking care of myself,” she said.

Disability created by stigma

“I did not realise how deeply this relatively less visible disability would affect me. But when I started going to school everyone teased me. I was alone without friends with no one to talk with,” she added, recalling her years at the school.

The traditional mindset towards people with disabilities often impacts them individually with low expectations from life, without a focus on higher education and an independent future.

“On completing my 10th class, I stayed at home and trained in tailoring hoping to find a source of livelihood. Even on completion of the tailoring course I stayed at home not having a means to invest in tools necessary to start a business,” she added.

Starting a new journey

women taking her goats on a street ©CBM
Suman has also received financial support to buy three goats to augment her earning
Inspired by her mother, Suman joined a self-help group of women supported by a CBM project. This set her on a path of discovering a confident and an independent self. The self-help group not only creates awareness about government schemes but also enables members to access loans for creating assets or opening small businesses like shops etc. 

Suman received cash support from the self-help group’s loan scheme to finance a tailoring machine.  

The machine is mounted on a table in front patio of her modest house. She starts bursting with energy while taking about how the sewing machine has allowed her to gain her economic independence. Today she sews about four garments in a day providing her a steady stream of cash income. That is not all, she has also received financial support to buy three goats to augment her earning. 

Through the approach of Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) and a focus on empowerment, CBM has been supporting livelihood projects based on inclusive organic agriculture in selected states across India. At the center of this model is the participation of people with disabilities by rallying members of communities together.  

One of the key features of the CBM supported organic agriculture projects are training for people with disabilities and their families for using vermicomposting and crop rotation, among other techniques.

Suman’s family has agricultural land that her father grows limited cash crops on but extended use of chemical fertilisers have reduced land productivity. 

Together with her mother, she has created three vermicomposting pits and is supporting her father to adapt to organic manure and fertilisers.

Suman is no longer restricted by barriers that impacted her in the past and is keen to share how opportunities and inclusion can change lives and perceptions.


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