Economic Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities

A number of life skills training to improve the lives of people with disabilities are organized in the country. But for various reasons, most of them cannot put the acquired skills to use. To ensure that this does not happen, the Disabled People’s Organization (DPOB) along with the labour ministry started a project. It focuses on helping people with disabilities start group businesses after such training.

Passang Dema, 31, from Zhemgang is currently undergoing a tailoring training. The Disabled People’s Organization and the labour ministry initiated the programme four months ago with 45 participants. After completing the training this month, 17 of them including Passang will open tailoring shops in Thimphu.

“It was difficult for someone like me who is physically disabled. Through this training, I will be able to live life like any ordinary person,” said Passang Dema.

As part of the project, the participants are also taught other life skills including baking and candy making.

“Our candy production project is targeted mainly to generate employment opportunities for persons with disabilities particularly for women with disabilities because candy production doesn’t require very heavy work,” said Kuenga Dorji, Bhutan Centre for Disabilities.

“We have action plans for them which will ensure that they are supported in terms of payment and rent payment during the first three months of starting businesses. It also includes marketing strategy,” said Dorji Phuntsho, communication officer of DPOB.

The Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and UNDP are supporting the group set up their businesses. They provided tailoring sets and baking and candy manufacturing equipment. An entertainment group run by seven people with disabilities also received musical instruments from the two agencies.

“The pandemic has made it difficult for many people economically and especially people with disabilities. But we hope there will be more opportunities for women and girls with disabilities to participate in economic activities. So, this project show hope,” said Eunkyoung Koh, Program Director of KOICA Bhutan World Friends Program Office.

“The government already has a very comprehensive policy for the persons with disabilities. But, obviously in the very difficult situation, the implementation can be a challenge. But if we have the whole of the society approach where the needs of the people with disabilities are mainstreamed in everything we do, in all the programmes, I think it can be achieved,” said Azusa Kubota, Resident Representative of UNDP Bhutan.

Besides empowering the persons with disabilities economically, the initiative will contribute to integrating them in the labour market. Officials said it will help eliminate stigma, discrimination, and exclusion that disabled people face. According to the Bhutan Vulnerability Baseline Assessment 2016, these negative attitudes are major challenges for persons with disabilities.

Phub Gyem, Thimphu

Edited by Sonam Wangdi

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