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South Asia and Disability Studies

Redefining Boundaries and Extending Horizons


Shridevi Rao and Maya Kalyanpur

Incorporating scholarship that addresses the social, economic, cultural, and historical facets of the experience of disability in South Asia, this book presents the reader with a comprehensive, cogent, and nuanced view of the constructions of disability in this region. In doing so, it focuses on the lived experiences of people with disabilities and their families, analyzing such disabling barriers as poverty, caste, and other inequities that limit their access to education, employment, equity, and empowerment. It addresses the interpretations of disability within different South Asian contexts including policy, family, educational systems, films, and literary narratives. Situated in an interdisciplinary perspective that spans areas such as cultural studies, law, disability studies in education, sociology, and historiography, South Asia and Disability Studies presents a rich and complex understanding of the disability experience in South Asia. The organization of topics parallels the discourse in areas within disability studies such as identity construction, language, historical constructions of disability, and cultural representations of disability.
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Chapter 5: Gender Sensitivity in Disability Initiatives: Perspectives on South Asia


According to the World Health Organization (WHO, 2010), 10% of the world population, or over 650 million people, are estimated to have some kind of disability. The WHO also estimates that three-quarters of the world’s population of people with disabilities live in developing countries. The Asian and Pacific regions alone are estimated to be home to about 400 million of the world’s total disability population (United Nations Economic and Social Committee for Asia and the Pacific [UNESCAP], 2003). Though there are no firm statistics on the population of women with disabilities, current research estimates that 80 million of the total disability population of the world is represented by girls and women (UNESCAP, 2010), and it can be assumed that women with disabilities in South Asia represent a significant share of the global population. Many nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have initiated programs for persons with disabilities in South Asia through different approaches such as community-based rehabilitation. However, few of these organizations focus on gender-related disability issues. This chapter addresses this gap: It discusses the cultural and structural marginalization of disabled women in South Asia, with specific reference to Nepal, and through a review of programs and activities offered by international and national NGOs, examines the extent to which they have empowered women with disabilities to participate within social and political arenas, presenting the case for promoting greater gender sensitivity in disability and development initiatives globally.

While the original review that was undertaken for my master’s thesis analyzed programs in 27...

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