“I have only just begun to live”

A woman standing in front of a sign.
Photo: Nepal Red Cross Society

The Red Cross supports disabled people in Nepal in finding their voice and livelihood.

Until a few years ago, Nepalese Gita Bishwokarma, 34, was afraid to leave her home. She did not want to meet other people, who usually instantly noticed her being blind in her other eye. The discrimination was made worse by the fact that Bishwokarma is poor, casteless and female. 

In 2019, however, Bishwokarma learned about a project by the Nepal Red Cross Society aimed at improving the lives of disabled people, in particular. She found the courage to attend a meeting for disabled people.

The experience changed her life. She joined the committee for the local peer support group for disabled people. In the meetings, she received training and heard about the rights of disabled people, the challenges they face and the solutions available.

She is now also involved in a mothers’ group, a co-op and other local networks. Her self-confidence has improved, and she is not as nervous about speaking with other people as before.

“I have only just begun to live,” she says.

Support for entrepreneurs

Bishwokarma is only one of the people who have received support through a project supported by the Danish, Finnish and Hong Kong Red Cross. The project  includes the establishment of a peer support group for disabled people, improvements to basic services and an increase of opportunities to participate in disaster prevention.

”The people reached by the project no longer stay at home, but are an active part of their community. They start to realise their potential, know their rights and work in networks of disabled people as well as together with local authorities and communities,” says Finnish Red Cross Country Coordinator Sushma Shrestha.

The project also grants support to disabled people for finding their own source of livelihood. Bishwokarma, for example, received a grant of 142 euros, which she used to buy poultry.

Disability is not an obstacle anymore

 Dulimaya Ale, 52, has also had a boost of confidence over the past few years. Ale’s spine was damaged 12 years ago due to loss of blood in connection with childbirth. She withdrew in her home until she learned about a peer support group started by a Red Cross project in 2020.

Now, she never misses a meeting and is a member of the group’s board, attends various meetings, shares her experiences with others and is not afraid to speak her mind.

”It is a wonderful feeling to be committed and active. Thanks to these opportunities, I feel that my disability is no longer an obstacle. I feel strong,” Ale says.

Ale is a disability rights activist, but also a farmer with nine goats. She bought four of the animals using aid she received from the Red Cross. Her small business is thriving, and according to Ale, she is even able to save some money.

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