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Disability didn’t stop these women from achieving financial independence

express news service

Madurai: Workers are busy in Thyagam Women’s Trust located in Nagamalai Pudukottai, Madurai. While one section sews face masks, the other makes doormats and gloves. Some sew night gowns for women, and others craft decor items. All these are Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) who are being trained to earn a living.

Started in 2005 by S Amuthashanthi, the trust aims to make rural women with disabilities financially independent. When Amuthashanti was young, her parents admitted her to a house because she was born without a left hand. This had a huge impact on his mental health as a child.

“Though I excelled in academics, I was insecure and isolated myself because of my disability. But my teacher noticed my talent and encouraged me to participate in speech competitions. It helped me break out of my shell soon. I won a state-level speech competition and received an award from the then Chief Minister MG Ramachandran,” said Amuthashanti.

Beginning with tailoring unit at home, friends as companions
After completing his degree, Amuthashanthi worked in various private institutions. On holidays, he and his friends used to visit villages to help women with disabilities. Then she realized that she could start a sewing unit for persons with disabilities.

In 1999, with Rs 30,000 in his bank account, Amuthashanthi quit his job and started a sewing unit behind his house. “Meena, my friend, and I got on her cycle and went around Selur in search of sewing orders. We contacted about 10 shops but no one was willing to give us orders saying that the disabled cannot do ‘normal’ work. But we soon got an order for three dozen towels and didn’t have time to finish it. Me and my friends together completed the task in one day. Our focus was only on the target,” Amuthashanti recalled.

Two years later, people came forward to sponsor tailoring machines, charge rentals and place orders; And in 2005, with the help of volunteers and media, the Thyagagam Mahila Trust was formed.

In the last 16 years, the Trust has empowered over 6,000 persons with disabilities across the state. S Meena, coordinator of the trust, said, “When a disabled person is referred to us or comes to ask for help, we are the first to counsel them and solve them based on the problems they face. Then, we identify their skill and education level, and accordingly introduce them to higher education, sports, government schemes and other similar schemes.”

The residents of the facility are allotted work based on skill and education. If a person cannot use their feet, they can sew the mat; If they are educated then they are given training in data entry. “Our aim is to rehabilitate and help them survive independently,” Meena said.

After training, parents or caregivers of persons with disabilities are briefed and encouraged to set up a workspace at home. “Family members think that disabilities are useless and the person also thinks that they cannot do anything. Everyone has the ability to do something. We pass on information to parents and family members so that they realize that it is also their responsibility to take care and support them instead of being left idle at home,” Meena reiterates.

a home for new beginnings
The trust has helped to breathe a new lease of life into the residents. Thyagam Stay Home warden Nancy Sahana (30) was referred to the trust by the collector after her friend cheated her out of her money and dropped her at the Government Rajaji Hospital. Since she has passed her 10th standard exam, she is made warden and also takes care of logistics for the trust.

In addition to the skills that Thiagam teaches, residents of the facility are proficient in dancing, singing, and mimicry, among other things.

Some sections of the society get a raw deal by being denied proper education, exposure and employment. But there is hope even in the darkest places. Those labeled outcasts and worthless have found ways to thrive. Here are some of his stories

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