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Tapping opportunities through skill development

Two men, Sathesh Kumar and Muruganandam are working in a  handloom weaving unit in Trichy
Sathesh Kumar and Muruganandam, both with vision impairment, working on a handloom machine at a weaving unit in Trichy

Access to skills and trainings to create employability for people with disabilities in India is the need of the hour for their economic empowerment and employment. This article explains the issue and how CBM India is working towards it.

Economic empowerment of people with disabilities through employment and earning opportunities is linked to their struggle for equal participation and opportunities. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2006, have established the right to work and employment without discrimination.  

Although the human rights case alone is enough to strengthen a call to action, there is also ample evidence showing that inclusion of people with disabilities is beneficial from an economic perspective as well. Lived experiences, projects and research studies have established time and again that poverty and disability are deeply connected; with disability being a cause and consequence of poverty.

Focusing on skills and trainings

People with disabilities have a very high rate of unemployment across the world, especially in the Low and Medium Income Countries (LMICs). A number of systemic, structural and attitudinal barriers exclude them from access to employment or participation in economically productive and market linked activities. These barriers or lack of access is associated and interlinked with three key life areas: education, employment and health. 

The announcement of the ‘National Action Plan for Skill Training of Persons with Disabilities’ in March this year is a very positive development and comes on the back of a number of schemes and initiatives on skill training by government. The document also highlights the need for imparting skills and building capacity of people with disabilities.

According to the National Census 2011, about 1.34 crore people with disabilities are in the employable age of 15 to 59 years. About 99 lakh persons with disabilities in the employable age group are either ‘non-workers’ or ‘marginal workers’.

The growth in Indian economy and burgeoning markets have created a massive demand for skilled human resource. But there is a huge gap that needs to be filled by scaling up the skills and training infrastructure. Access to skills and trainings that create employability for people with disabilities in India is one of the core areas of focus for CBM India.

Link between exclusion and employment

But before we move to the details of CBM’s approach and its skill development projects with grassroots partners, it is important to underline the relationship between lack of access to education/health and employment of people with disabilities.

Exclusion from education leads to unemployment and lack of marketable skills thus reducing the earning potential of people with disabilities. Similarly, lack of access to healthcare services severely limits the ability to find employment or become self-employed. There are ample studies that have calculated the economic impact of exclusion from access to education and health.   

Therefore CBM’s approach is not just of focusing on disability-specific interventions but also on empowering people with disabilities. This holistic approach is based on the Community-Based Inclusive Development approach.

Creating synergies

Creating livelihood opportunities and developing skills for people with disabilities is one of the core programmes and advocacy priorities for CBM India. Through a range of partnerships with grassroots organisations, government and private companies, people with disabilities are being trained and connected with employment or self-employment opportunities. 

The focus has been on creating synergies with the government schemes while connecting with the market needs. In addition to this, a number of projects are being implemented and these provide examples of opportunities that can be tapped into by connecting people with disabilities with relevant skills and sectors. 

Some of our partners are working on skills related to computer hardware and software management; voice based business process outsourcing and services in retail and hospitality. Breaking the stereotypes around the traditional livelihood opportunities for people with disabilities CBM India has also created a successful model for employing persons with visual impairment in heavy machinery work, and they now have been linked with a large public sector enterprise as a supplier.

Breaking new grounds

An initiative for creating new livelihood avenues for people with disabilities in the agriculture sector is showing promising results. CBM India is equipping people with disabilities with skills, to change the role they have played so far in agriculture, by connecting them with financial credit and supporting them in making production choices. One of the critical components of these trainings has been changing the design of farm tools to enable people with disabilities to work on various production processes.

As a part of this initiative on developing organic farming skills, a number of village level trainings are being organised. These are focused on highlighting the benefits of organic farming and training participants on creating biodynamic compost, bio-pesticide and other inputs that utilise locally available resources. 
Thumbnail for video "Winning combination of cricket and inclusion" Thumbnail for video "Winning combination of cricket and inclusion"

Winning combination of cricket and inclusion

Message by India’s T20 Blind Cricket Team on celebrating CBM India’s winning combination of cricket and inclusion.

Thumbnail for video "Why Vidya must go to school" Thumbnail for video "Why Vidya must go to school"

Why Vidya must go to school

We all feel very strongly about the need of education for enabling children to find opportunities and addressing development challenges of the country


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