Chandani, the field officer of Matara was heading to meet deepika, OPD secretary of Weligama to have the last interview of case study presenting below. Road was so muddy and it was slippery making it difficult to ride a bike So, Chandani had to go on foot to reach the house. Deepika was living at Udugedara Estate, Bulugahakoratuwa, Wekada, Midigama in Matara district.
Midigama is a remote location nearly 150 Kms away from Colombo. Most of the people in the village made living either by fishing or fisheries industry related laboring. Most of the families never had any permanent jobs or business other than being labors for boat owners. The smell of dry fish blowing with the sea breeze reminded chandani the area is popular for dry fish. However the drizzle put the dry fish makers into trouble. Production of dried fish was one of the major income source of the families in Midigama. Deepika was not at home when chandani reached. Chandani found some times it is difficult to get through to her as mobile networks does not function properly in this remote location. Upon her arrival one of her neighbors went to inform deepika of Chandani’s arrival.
“It is by law that 3% of employment opportunities are reserved for person with disabilities according to NAPD. And it is limited to the law and far from practice. Respected president if this committee let by you decide to re-open Midigama garment factory I request your attention to make that law apply practically to ensure employment opportunity for people like me in our OPD”.
Co incidentally It was the day that president had “Gama samanga Pilisandarak” (Dialogue with the Village) programme at Midigama. Chandani was waiting for Deepika to return from the meeting. She was eager to present the above quote first before presenting rest of the story that she had taken from the discussion with Deepika. Deepika was very happy about her presence and being able to raise her voice as a prominent advocacy agent in the area.
“Gama Samaga Pilisandara” (Dialogue with the Village) is a program led by president, ministers, government officials and community leaders by visiting each and every village letting people to express their own opinions towards development and its issues. Deepika was one of the active participant of above programme through distant satellite technology at Midigama.
So, what happened, what was his reply Chandani was inquisitive. “He promised during the open discussion and advised his officials to make necessary arrangements to ensure 3% of job placement for PWDS at Midigama garment factory once it is open again” Deepika replied happily.
- Deepika : According to Chandani, Deepika is 39 years old and was born as a normal child in a family of 9 members. She has been schooling up to grade 8 and left school due to economic hardships of the family who made living by fishing. Followed by a brief affair with a boy at the same age she got married when she was merely 17. However, the life was happy and smooth until she had a first baby.
- Broken home and depressed mother : Followed by their first baby, her husband left her and she had to fight for the life alone with her little daughter. Life was not easy and it was very unfair for her. Her worriers, anxiety and lack of food dried up her breast leaving no milk for the infant. Most of the time she found it was difficult to get something to feed the baby. In one unfortunate night when it was unbearable of baby’s cry she went to kitchen to prepare milk which she borrowed from parents. The old saree that she was using as a linen caught by fire when she tried to lit the stove with kerosene oil. Luckily she survived the burn and however the young mother slowly developed depression. Though the incident was horrific she was lucky to win parents’ sympathy which eased her life a little. “You know it was a night mare Deepika said with tears in her eyes”. Chandani had written.
Being a young widow mother her life continued with all the imaginable difficulties. Followed by another twelve years of previous incident she developed a born cancer of her left forearm leading to an amputation.
- A Blooming advocacy agent : Chandani met Deepika for the first time years after above insidents at a parent’s awareness program of Weligama OPD under the BMZ funded project. She attended the meeting expecting some support for her daughter’s education. Followed by the meeting and a brief discussion with her, considering her situation and needs Chandani motivated her to join the OPD, divisional, district level advocacy committees to avail wider range of benefits of our CBID program. Since then, Deepika was an active member of the the OPD and the district and provincial advocacy committees and soon she became the secretary of the Weligama OPD.
- Life changing interventions : Chanadani together with weligama OPD office bears and inclusive committees planned a series of intervention including capacity development for the DPO leaders and deepika was a beneficiary of those interventions. She was referred to muti-Deciplinary clinics and P&O team assessed her for a prosthetic arm. Also she was referred to counselor attach to DS office weligam where she received counselling session to get rid of depression. She shows remarkable improvement in depression and however her arm has not yet been delivered. Improved deepika was later introduced to the MYP livelihood development program through which she received funding to start her small boutique seen in the picture. Today she thanks the donors of MYP, BMZ and peat and Durna. “I noticed that deepika has a great potential to be a good advocacy agent someday” Said Chandani.
- Reflects of an advocacy agent :
• A national level decisions have been changed due to deepika’s advocacy actions. At the country lock down period due to COVID-19, the government decided to provide Rs.5000 loan for person with disabilities and beneficiaries of samurdhi programme1. An instant media conference was held by deepika and some PWDs and stated that they need a subvention instead of a loan due to their economic hardships. The media conference was published at the main news telecast of Sirasa TV on 06-04-2020. As a result the line ministry decided to grant 5000LKR as a subvention instead of a loan for all PWDs and samurdhi beneficiaries in the country.
• At the time of parliament election 2020, Deepika met three candidates with her OPD members and their discussion led to sign agreements between the OPD and candidates to reinstate the NAPD. In addition, their willingness to make NAPD Live.
• In additoina, Deepika parcipated for the provincial inclusive education committee by representing OPDs. Future plan for deepika: According to Chandani, Deepika will be developed as a leader of the advocacy network in southern province and advocacy events have to be done under her leadership in the project.