Feeding the Vision in West Bengal

What an amazing time to have a small role in the shaping of a social change that will be written and spoken of for decades to come. A vision of an Indian society in which people with disability have a valued place at the table is emerging, and with that, the consensus that this is a movement which is not only good for people with disabilities, but a part of what must happen for the benefit of everyone.

Although practice lies far behind policy, law and rhetoric, the will is strong and the people are beginning to establish a vision of where they are headed and also why it matters.  A local representation of this unfolded in West Bengal this past weekend, as over 100 change makers gathered at the Kolkata Lions Club to add momentum to this work of building an inclusive India.

Respected, tireless leaders of the movement who have been fighting for decades for a fair shake for people with disabilities shared their lessons from the early days, when people with disabilities were forgotten, ignored, hidden, and left behind joined us for the day.  Dr. Rekha Ramachandran, founder of the Down Syndrome Federation of India, and change warrior in India, spoke truth about the realities of past and present, recounting essential truths to a rapt audience.

New leaders spoke with passion about the progress that is being made, and began to describe the future as we see it. People with lived experience of disability took to the stage to tell of their work in starting entrepreneurial businesses. Families of people with disability, spoke with hope, still mixed with trepidation and worry, of the futures of their sons and daughters.

As I looked over the audience, I saw evidence of our progress by the number of strong leaders who make up the disability movement in Kolkata – those we have met in workshops, planning sessions, and dialogues here in West Bengal and in other places as well. I see the growing confidence of a movement which is finding itself, discovering its own power, and beginning to see the possibilities of an Indian society where everyone has a place and that place is honored.

For me, this day spent with like hearts and minds was rejuvenating and life-giving.  Of particular power for me was seeing that the event was conceptualized by new leaders, such as Amrita Roy Chowdhury, founder of Transcendent Knowledge Society and a woman with a growing vision of what it means to stand by, with and for people with disability. Standing beside those of us who have been in this work for decades, adding their own important perspectives to the common wealth of knowledge, and adding optimism, a sense of surety, and their own images of a future that works for everyone makes for a potent recipe for change. Congratulations to the organizers of this event, Dr. Monidipa Bannerjee, Dr. Rekha Ramachandran, and the indomitable Amrita Roy Chowdhury, and all others who made this important day happen.

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About elizabethneuville

Executive Director of The Keystone Institute, the educational institute of Keystone Human Services. At the Keystone Institute, we focus on creating educational events and forums which promote ideas to advance the possibilities of vulnerable people accessing the good things that life has to offer. I also serve as the Director of Keystone Institute India, and educational institute on disability, community and innovation, and currently divide my time between India and the US.

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