Kabita, 21, lives in Banke, a district in the southern plains of western Nepal. When she was younger, she acquired a physical disability in a road accident. Kabita's physical disability and the inaccessible education system prevented her from continuing school, like many girls in her community. As a child, she experienced societal stigma and discrimination.
"I never had a chance to play with other children, attend a marriage function and party," Kabita says. "I could not participate in our cultural rituals in the village. I never wanted to attend and participate anywhere due to my functional limitations and the behaviors of family and community members."
Her strong determination, combined with family support and participation in the ENGAGE project in 2018, manifested changes in her life. Through the project managed by Humanity & Inclusion and partners, she attended a bridge class for nine months, enhancing her literacy and math skills. Later, she decided to pursue a career as an e-rickshaw driver, a male-dominated profession.
Kabita sometimes became discouraged because of misconceptions: "You can't drive a rickshaw; it's a hassle to get to the market; handling passengers is difficult; you can't sustain in the market," Kabita explains. Kabita and her family were visited regularly by Humanity & Inclusion's team and its local partner staff who provided counseling to help overcome the barriers. With support from the project, she learned to drive and received start-up funds to purchase an e-rickshaw. Kabita succeeded in breaking the stigma associated with disability and the prevailing gender stereotype about her profession of choice.
"I make really good money and I provide service to people," Kabita says.
Kabita is now confident in her profession and earns 1,000 to 1,700 Nepalese Rupees—$7 to $14 USD—each day. Having already paid six installments, she is saving money for extra batteries and maintenance of the rickshaw. She has set an excellent example that girls with disabilities can pursue their dreams and be an inspiration to others.
“Women with disabilities are neglected in the family and society due to their limitations, and face a multitude of barriers due to lack of enabling environment," says Indra Bista, Disability Inclusion Technical Officer at Humanity & Inclusion Nepal. "They are least prioritized in social activities and career development opportunities."
"In remote villages where families live in vulnerable conditions, women with disabilities are more vulnerable than other members of the family," Bista adds. "Whether it's access to education, health and livelihood, they are always denied their rights."
This story is part of the Empowering a new generation of adolescent girls with education- ENGAGE project, which aims to support girls in gaining a quality education and developing skills to earn a decent living. This initiative has been made possible with funding support from UK Aid through the Girls Education Challenge (GEC), as well as leadership from VSO. It is run by Humanity & Inclusion and its local partner organization, Disabled Empowerment and Communication Center, Banke.