Holding a placard that read: “You Don’t See What We Can Do, Who’s Disabled — We or You,” over a hundred women on wheelchairs celebrated International Women’s Day by demanding the right to be treated with dignity and equality.
Mumbai’s iconic Marine Drive saw an influx of differently-abled women, NGOs and hundreds of supporters who paid a unique tribute to the spirit of womanhood on the eve of the day. “Women’s Day is not just to cheer our achievements but to introspect what we lack. And as women with disability, we seek lot more from the system that we are a part of so that we can live our life to our full potential,” said a teenager on a wheelchair holding a banner that Read-”you see a wheelchair, We see a person.”
Supporting the cause of women with disability who bear the brunt of discrimination in the society the women with disability on wheelchair were joined by common people, socialites, celebrities and activists in a solidarity protest organised by the ADAPT (Able Disable All People) Rights Group. “There can be no true independence for woman as long as people don’t have the right to travel. Jeeja Ghosh’s case clearly shows the pathetic, apartheid-like condition women with disability face in India. How can we celebrate Woman’s Day when this is happening to almost 15 per cent Indians who have some or the other form of disability,” said Malini Chib, Chairman ADAPT.
The idea of the protest sparked by the offloading of a teacher and disability activist from Kolkata, Jeeja Ghosh on the 20th of February, when she was on her way to a conference on inclusion of people with disability into mainstream society from a SpiceJet flight. Two days later another woman, Anjlee Agarwal (with muscular dystrophy) was also offloaded from a Jet Airways flight.
“It is shocking that women with disability – be they with hearing, visual or physical impairment – are left out of almost everything, including women’s movements. Hence, a lot of violence goes on with them without anything ever being done against it. So we decided to come out and tell the public directly how women with disability have been left out.” Dr. Mithu Alur, Founder-Chairperson – ADAPT said.
She added that despite legislations in the country there are cases where women on wheelchairs are ‘thrown out of a flights’ “What is the point of legislation if there is no enforcement? There are many such cases of violation that have been noted in the country. Unless punitive action is taken against the airlines or anyone else discriminating against people based on disability, there won’t be any change. We also hope to get the aviation ministry’s notice by this protest.”
Filmmaker Shyam Benegal, who was present the rally said that said, “Everyone has some or the other disability, visible or hidden. Yet why is it that we consider people with a visible disability to be so different from us?” he added that while All constitutionally granted rights to a woman also apply to a woman with disability they are often not consider ‘normal’ “Why don’t we realise that the idea of ‘normality’ is an arbitrary. We need to sensitise people to the needs of people with disability for they are trying to lead a meaningful life as well. It is important to ensure that they are not relegated to dark corners of our society but are part of the mainstream alongside all of us.”