“Issues related to people with disabilities are seldom discussed in the news. It only becomes important when there is an impending election. We want our voices to be heard because we believe our vote matters,” said Thushari Lasanthi Wickramasinghe, who is blind.
The project works with victims of human rights abuses and encourages and supports them to seek help from existing state institutions and mechanisms, and those set up under the Transitional Justice framework. Marginalised communities, including members of Female Headed Households and People With Disabilities (PWDs), are part of the direct project beneficiaries who are made aware of their rights and how to use available state mechanism. They are given leadership training and character building and practical skills development knowledge as part of social upliftment.
In Nuwara Eliya, 33 marginalised community members were part of the workshop in Hatton. Resources shared included knowledge on how to apply for special benefits afforded to PWDs from the Department of Social Services and available skills development programmes attached to the Divisional Secretariat office.
As common issues affecting the community, participants identified the lack of land ownership, poor sanitation, bad garbage disposal mechanisms, lack of Samurdhi benefits, long waiting lists to receive benefits, closure of estate hospitals, lack of infrastructure facilities, poverty and lack of strong political leadership from the estates.
As specific issues affecting PWDs and marginalised groups that needed to be addressed by election candidates, participants identified the lack of social benefits for PWDs, lack of identification and resultant non recognition at government institutions, inability to apply for bank loans, lack of skills development programmes, media silence on disability related issues and the lack of political leaders who speak on behalf of marginalised groups from the estate sector.