“I want to go to all the villages in my district and meet the disabled children there,” said N Rajesh, a visually challenged boy hailing from Gingee, Villupuram in the State. Rajesh is the first co-convenor of the Tamil Nadu Forum of Children with Disabilities and Vulnerabilities, which was formed recently.
The organisation, formed by a number of NGOs working in the area of disability and childcare, is the first of its kind in the State. It consists of disabled children and children with conditions like AIDS from various parts of the State who will act as representatives of the disabled communities. These children will hold debates and discussions on the issues affecting them and create a network across the State, thereby helping the government bring in policy changes for the welfare of the disabled children with the help of their recommendations.
“The whole concept is such that the children talk for themselves. They are the ones who set the agenda, take up programmes and highlight their problems. There are 10 such Forums of Children with Disabilities in various parts of the State. This is the second phase of the growth of the forum as 10 new State forums are to be developed this year. Tamil Nadu is the first to get the forum in this phase,” said Reni K Jacob, Director-Advocacy of the World Vision India, which is leading the forums.
In some States that have the children’s forum, the members have been exclusively from the disabled community. In Tamil Nadu, this has been expanded to include those with vulnerabilities as well. The forum in Tamil Nadu has members from Theni, Perambalur, Pudukottai, Nagapattinam, Vellore, Coimbatore and Villupuram among others.
“Most of the government welfare programmes that are provided to the physically challenged do not reach us. This is because most of the children in tribal areas like ours do not know about them. As such I am looking forward to going to all the villages in my area, identify the disabled children and tell them about the various schemes,” said Rajesh. Rajesh who hails from a family of three visually challenged children, lost his mother when he was young and was abandoned by his father.
Today, he is a confident young man. Rajesh wants to learn English and be an English Professor. “It is only if you know English that you will be able to go to national and international forums and create awareness. It might not be possible for me to learn English in my village. But I hope I will able to go to some other institution where I can,” he said.
Though his current goal is English, his first love was always science. “But when you are visually challenged, Science is not an option for you as you can’t do the practicals. So I had to stick to humanities. I hope in the future, children like us will have more opportunities to pursue our interests and make use of our talents,” he added.