Meena Dadha had to overcome several personal challenges at an early age. She was able to do so with the support of a loving husband and family. Now, she is giving back to society by helping people with disabilities, and her efforts have already touched the lives of 3 lakh people.
Meena Dadha was just 17 when she was married into a conservative Marwari family. But unlike other, often traumatic, stories of early marriages, Meena’s is different. Her loving husband and caring family helped her find her passion, which gave her direction in life.
Meena faced some personal challenges early on. She was dyslexic and had to work hard to overcome this difficulty.
Later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and fought the disease bravely and successfully. Since Meena was always inclined towards social work, she now began to look around for some work that would be inspiring and make her feel useful.
“One day, my husband and I were invited to an artificial limb camp in Chennai. I saw over 500 people there who needed prostheses but only 100 got them,” says Meena.
Meena realized that there was an urgent need for artificial limbs. So, with the help of her husband, she started an artificial limb centre in a garage in Chennai, from where she would distribute artificial limbs and calipers to needy people for free. They brought the famous ‘Jaipur Foot’ experts to Chennai to train their staff so they could manufacture the best products themselves. And this is how Meena’s organization Mukti was born in 1986.
From providing artificial limbs to organising campaigns and events, Mukti has been extremely proactive in working with people with disabilities.
At a foot camp some time ago, Meena met Rama (name changed) whose husband had lost both his legs in an accident. Since he had lost his job too due to the incident, the family had no source of income. Rama’s three children had to drop out of school. In fact, things were so desperate that Rama was even considering the path of prostitution to make ends meet. It was then that Mukti came to her aid and provided an artificial leg for her husband. Now, he has found employment and is able to support the family.
Another way Mukti is able to create impact is by helping people with disabilities find employment. A good many of the organization’s staff and technicians are people with special needs.
“Dr. Sarada Menon from the Schizophrenia Research Foundation (SCARF) got in touch with me and enlightened me about the employment difficulties faced by people with mental illness. She asked me to employ a few such people and I did. It was such a great step forward and I am glad that it happened. Today, many of our our technicians are people with special needs and are even trained to make artificial limbs for Mukti,” says Meena.
Mukti also brings together artists from different states of India to talk to physically challenged artists, so their work can be recognised and sold to give them an income.
Mukti is currently being run with the help of donations and family support. “Of course, sustaining ourselves is very difficult. Especially when we don’t have any government support,” says Meena.
Meena and her team of 15 technicians constantly try to upgrade and improve the quality of their products. They have also partnered with a US based organization, which is helping them come up with better designs.
“We keep experimenting with new models. For example, earlier we used aluminium in our products but now we are using PVC. We are open to new ideas and designs,” she says.
Mukti welcomes people who want to work with the organization. “People can help us raise funds, help us with better technology or just spread the word about us,” concludes Meena.
If you want to know more about Mukti’s work, check out this website.