Category Archives: Women with Disabilities


The South Asian Workshop on “Advancing the Rights of Women with Disabilities Through Networking and Capacity Building for Advocacy”, was organized by the National Federation of the Disabled in Nepal and Abilis Foundation, in Katmandu, Nepal in July 2014.

The South Asian Women with Disabilities Network (SAWDN) is a collaborative loose (unregistered) forum among Women with Disabilities in South Asian Region for the promotion of rights and opportunity of persons with disabilities in the region especially women with disabilities. It is a regional level Network established by Women with Disabilities who have been contributing in disability sector Nationally, Regionally and Internationally.

The existence of Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), 2006 has changed the landscape of the disability worldwide; however the issues and concern of women with disabilities in developing countries including South Asia do not seem to be adequately addressed. Thus, this network is designed / established as a common forum to advocate and lobby for the promotion of rights of women with disabilities as envisioned in the CRPD. Thus the Network will contribute for the effective implementation of the CRPD to promote and strengthen rights and opportunity for women with disabilities in these regional-countries.

Several efforts are made to implement the CRPD and to promote and strengthen rights of women with disabilities worldwide including in South Asian countries. However, the rights and issues of women with disabilities in South Asian region do not seem to be adequately addressed. Some policies, laws, Acts at national level are amended and enacted but the concerns of women with disabilities are left behind in these respective countries.

South Asian Countries are organized under a regional organization i.e. South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC), however there is not such common agendas and forum for joint advocacy and lobby for the promotion of rights of persons with disabilities so far in this region. It has been strongly realized that Regional body should contribute in promoting rights of persons with disabilities in line with the CRPD. Further, a functional network of the right-holders including women with disabilities is expected to be established to promote disability rights and CRPD in the region. Thus, this network targets for regional collaboration and cooperation of the South Asian countries to empower and development of the women with disabilities and to eliminate all kinds of violence and discrimination against women with disabilities through consolidated effort. The network is expected to contribute to break the barrier faced by women with disabilities in South Asian Region. Further, it works for the promotion and protection of rights of women with disabilities as envisioned in the CRPD. It will work as a change agent to bring quality of life of women with disabilities in South Asian Region in the long term. Thus, in order to establish and run the network formally, organized this workshop in Nepal as per following broader outline.

The overall objective of the workshop was to promote rights of women with disabilities in South Asian Region in line with the CRPD. The specific objectives of the workshop included the following:

  • To establish the network formally, through a declaration by leaders of women with disabilities of South Asian Region.
  • To develop and adopt objectives and working methodology of the Network in promoting and advancing the rights of Women with Disabilities in South Asia region.
  • To develop a capacity building mechanism and advocacy strategies of the Network to promote CRPD and rights of women with disabilities in the region.
  • To develop framework / action plan for mainstreaming disability into development in South Asian region
  • A functional regional network was established to promote the rights of persons with disabilities especially women with disabilities as envisioned by the CRPD.
  • A concrete document incorporating objectives and area of work of the organization was developed and adopted.
  • A way forward for capacity building of women with disabilities and advocacy strategy of the Network was adopted.
  • A joint action plan to mainstream disability into human rights and development agendas in South Asian Region was developed and adopted.

Ms. Manique gunaratne  was a resource person and conducted one session on “Include women with disabilities in the development agenda with regard to United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Incheon Strategy”.




In collaboration with the South Asian Disability Forum (SADF), the British Council (BC), the Comprehensive Health and Education Forum International (CHEF) and the Asia-Pacific Development Center on Disability (APCD), the “South Asian Disability and Development Initiative (SADDI)” has been implemented to address disability and gender inequality and empowering women with disabilities in South Asia.

In this context, the “Regional Capacity Building Training of Women with Disabilities in South Asia” was organized at the APCD training building in Bangkok, Thailand. Moreover, the “Asian and Pacific Conference on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: Beijing +20 Review” was also scheduled at the United Nations Convention Centre. The aim of a series of events was to strengthen the capacity of the selected young female leaders with disabilities in South Asia. Ms. Manique Gunaratne was invited as a panelist at the UN ESCAP conference. The participants were Heads of states, Ministers, High Level Government officials, representatives from civil societies and high level officials. She addressed the gathering on “Mainstreaming women with disabilities”. It was the first time a Sri Lankan woman with a disability addressing a UN gathering. There was a very good response for the presentation.

There is a video clip about the above conference on the following link.

Glimpse of Asia-Pacific Beijing+20 Conference

Manique addresses the un escap conference



The cultural norms prevailing in Asia put women at a disadvantage by placing them in a subordinate position in society. Asian women are constantly taught to be subservient. They are taught only to listen and not speak up. The lack of self-confidence leaves them with hunched shoulders, unable to stand tall and to make their voices heard. In such a society, the situation of vision impaired women is worse and they are often more timid and backward than their sighted counterparts.


Of late, Sri Lankan women have shown a tendency of combating outdated cultural norms and securing their rightful place in society. They have gathered the strength to pursue their ambitions. The number of career women has increased considerably in the recent past. However, the same cannot be said of women with vision impairment. Vision impaired women have difficulty in finding employment or setting up one’s own business. This is not purely due to the lack of hard skills or educational qualifications. Even if a vision impaired woman possesses the requisite qualifications and intellect for a particular profession, she fails because she lacks the personality traits that employers and clients look for.


Modern day employers specifically look for candidates who possess soft skills such as interpersonal skills, presentation skills, etiquettes, adequate grooming, team spirit, right attitude, flexibility, appropriate dressing sense and presentability, presence of mind, time management, work ethics, personal hygiene, listening skills, communication skills, street smartness and common sense. Research has shown that in this competitive era, mere hard skills do not make a person employable and enable that person to sustain in the professional life. Unfortunately, most vision impaired women are unable to acquire the skills which are required for personality development due to their impediment. Sighted people follow visual cues and learn from others or join a finishing school. Vision impaired women are unable to join mainstream finishing schools as most schools do not offer individualized lessons nor can they learn through observation. It is expected that the personality development programme specially designed to cater to the needs of this marginalized group of vision impaired women will give them the ability to project themselves better and create an impression on others and eventually find a sustainable income.


In order to improve the above skills the Asian Blind Union “Women & IT” project funded the “Organisational Leadership Development 2014”. The partner organisations were the Sri Lanka Federation of the Visually Handicapped and the Sri Lanka Council for the Blind. 16 young vision impaired ladies were trained on soft skills and on assistive device as a smart phone. Majority of the trainees were from The Employers’ Federation of Ceylon I.C.T. Training Centre for Persons with Disabilities.


The trainees were trained on:

Motivational Session:

Who am I and what gifts do I bring.

Why am I following this course?

Sharing expectations.

Where am I now and where do I want to be at the end of the course.

Team building and the power of a Team.

Independence and control of my future.

The value of Time and managing it.

What are the different areas of our life and how do we balance it.

What is the Corporate World or what the world of work that I am in is or that I want to be in.

A lot of this was activity based and special attention was given to activities that vision impaired persons can engage in. The purpose of this session was largely to ensure that the participants wanted to learn and were excited to change their lives to reach the next level.

Personal Grooming and Etiquette

From hygiene matters through to Fashion in terms of personal Grooming


Basic etiquette

Handshake through to making conversation at business meetings and table manners

First Impressions and lasting impressions


Workplace Etiquette

What to do and what not to do at the work place and understanding the culture of the work


Developing inter-personal skills, how to get along with others


Communication 1: Interpersonal Communication

The use of our voice to create the desired impression and questions to ascertain correct


This was a practical session of feedback.

Telephone etiquette – Communicating on the phone


Building Confidence

Making presentations and speeches, expressing one’s opinion at meetings


Communication 2: Body language

It is important as Vision impaired persons may not understand the importance of posture,

Gestures, use of space etc.


Communication 3: Voice for effective communication

How to vary volume, Tone, Rate of Speech, Quality of voice, according to the context

Subjects of conversation appropriate for different situations


Communication 4   -Structuring communication

Using what was learnt earlier – they will learn the main areas of communication and how to Structure their communication.


Participants were given the practical experience of table manners, office environment and hotel environment through a field visits to an office and a five star hotel.


Assistive Devices Training:


Introduction to android and touch system

Install your phone & Network.

How to setting your phone

How to answer a call?

How to dial a number?

How to check missed calls?

How to check received calls?

How to check dialed calls?

How to clear Call Log?

How to check a message?

How to create a message?

How to reply a message?

How to reply several people?

How to reply all?

How to forward a message?

How to check previous messages?

How to delete a message?

How to delete all messages?

How to check sent messages?

How to save a message?

How to set date and time?

How to use the calendar?

How to set alarm?

How to have a reminder?

How to use the calculator?

How to switch on the torch?

How to use the radio?

How to check the Connectivity

How to do Display settings

How to have Tone settings

How to check Profiles

How to do call settings

How to do Phone settings

How to do Security settings

How to create an email account?

How to log on to his/her email account?

How to check emails?

How to reply a message?

How to forward a message?

How to check sent items?

How to go to junk box?

How to delete a message from inbox?

How to go to delete box?

How to delete deleted items?

How to check draft?

How to open an attachment?

How to download several attachments?

How to send an attachment?

How to save attachments?

How to use Skype and Viber?

How to use the daisy player and read books?

How to use the voice recorder?

How to save voice memos?

How to take notes?

How to use Google play store

How to create a talkback setting


After the two and half months training the trainees were awarded certificates and a smart phone to be smart ladies. Ms. Manique Gunaratne was the Co-ordinator and resource person for the programme.

Women anIT group photo



True social development cannot take place without the participation as well as empowerment of visually impaired women and youth. A pertinent observation is that the nature of their involvement in various organizations of and for the blind has greatly varied across time and space. In the past, many visually impaired women outside the Asian Blind Union region have demonstrated conclusively that, given the right opportunity, they can prove to be great assets not only to the organizations they belonged to, but to the entire community. These path-breaking group of ladies was, of course, spearheaded by the legendary figure, Helen Keller, with many others following in her footsteps. In the present century, the strand of such commendable leader ship has been continued in the World Blind Union, the apex international body of the blind. Visually impaired ladies from Sweden and Australia have held the office of the President of the Union with remarkable success. In Asian region, however, very few such instances of leadership from amongst visually impaired women have come to light.

We have hardly any instances of a visually impaired lady leading the Regional Union or even any of the national organizations in their respective countries. This is the hitherto known situation, despite the fact that women constitute (though no reliable statistical data is available) half or nearly half of the visually impaired population in Asian countries. What then is the factual position? What are the causative factors – these and related questions call for systematic investigation.

Similarly, young visually impaired men and women hold a reservoir of largely untapped energy and potential. Yes, many of them have excelled in various spheres in developed countries – an American conquering Mount Everest, a British ex-pilot making a solo flight London-Sydney-London, a few persons working with the armed forces for intelligence-gathering in Belgium, the Netherlands, etc. Of course, there are large numbers of young people engaged in routine economic activities, too, with many participating in programmes to support their visually impaired peers.

In Asian region as well many visually impaired young persons have made a mark for themselves in different fields of work. They function as advocates, entrepreneurs, IT professionals, school and college teachers, government officials, craftsmen, village workers, etc., besides carrying out a host of routine and traditional activities. Yet, these gainfully employed individuals are but a small minority leaving out multitudinous numbers languishing in deprivation and neglect.

Under the circumstances, it is no wonder that the situation about the participation of these young persons in organizations of and for the blind has remained mostly unknown, even unchartered. These organizations could aspire for balanced growth and sustained development only when they are tinged with vibrant youthful energy. What is the extent, if any, of their participation in such organizational activities – is a basic question with implications for future programming and advancement of our organizations?

It was in this background and context that the present workshop was taken up to explore the status of participation of visually impaired women and youth in organizations working with the blind in the Asian region.

The Asian Blind Union consists of three sub regions, namely South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. The Asian Blind Union did a research and the results showed that women in Asia are not actively engaged in organizational activities. In order to develop the leadership qualities of vision impaired men and women a programme was organized in Bahrain in December 2014 on “Policy Development with emphases on Asian Blind Union gender balance policy to increase the involvement of active visually impaired women in the region”. Vision impaired persons from South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East participated in the workshop. Ms. Manique gunaratne represented Sri Lanka at this workshop as an Executive Committee member of the Asian Blind Union.

Conference on policy development in Bahrain