Hyderabad-based Gujjari Priyanka was born with a locomotor disability to an underprivileged family. Her cerebral palsy worsened when she suffered an epileptic episode when she was nine months old.
“I was unable to use the left side of my body optimally and would stammer. Up until middle school, I had no friends and company outside my family members. Often my classmates made fun of me. The repeated occasions of neglect and rejection coming from the outside world shattered my self-confidence,” she tells The Better India.
Priyanka says that multiple treatments and visits to different doctors did not yield expected results. “I doubted if I would ever be able to become an independent and confident woman,” she says, adding that multiple appearances for job interviews resulted in rejections and disappointment.
But today, the 28-year-old has overcome all odds to become a successful tele-caller, a dream come true for her.
A Platform to Succeed
Priyanka gives credit to Youth4Jobs (Y4J), an online training platform that helped her learn life skills.
“I received the attention and care that helped me develop effective communication skills. I also found a group of peers who accepted me with my disabilities. The acceptance gave me confidence and enabled me to interact with them comfortably,” she says.
Priyanka adds that she equipped herself with voice modulation skills and went through a series of priming sessions and mock interviews. She fought against the societal pre-sets of success and her disabilities with unmatched grit.
The girl who would once stammer is today placed at a call centre with a salary of Rs 10,000 a month.
“The earnings ensure that I am not a burden to my family and proved society wrong, especially those who mocked and rejected me,” she says.
Youth4Jobs is a social enterprise established by Meera Shenoy, which helps youth with disabilities gain professional skills and set up placements in companies aiming to make them financially independent.
Meera launched the initiative in 2012 after working closely in the rural and tribal employment sector. After learning about the suffering of the vulnerable communities — how they get rejected for their disabilities, Meera decided to help them.
To date, the organisation has helped over 17,800 persons with disabilities.
‘I Am Living My Dream’
Another success story is of Nagaland based Samlam Chulo. Born with a speech and hearing disability, Samlam experienced challenges all her life.
Interacting via a translator, the 24-year-old says, “Despite being popular amongst my peers, I have felt unaccepted and isolated. It distressed me on multiple occasions. At times my family felt ashamed about my disabilities.”
Samlam says that eventually, her parents accepted her and started supporting her. “However, I could only complete my Class 10, owing to the poor financial conditions of the family,” she adds.
Samlam, however, neglected the negativity around her and sought shelter from parents and loved ones who helped her brave the odds.
Today, she works at KFC, a global food chain in Guwahati and earns Rs 10,000 a month.
“I always wanted to make a career in fashion and beauty, but my disabilities did not allow me to pursue the same. So, I decided to pursue a different career and become independent,” Samlam says.
Samlam came across Y4J through a cousin. “I was determined to work for a reputed company with a good salary. I received some offers after completing the training with the organisation at Kohima. However, my parents felt a bit sceptical and worried about my well being. They refused to give their permission,” she says.
However, the counsellors at Y4J convinced and built trust with her parents, which enabled her to bag her first job. “The staff at the outlet is equally supportive, and I note down food orders on paper to prepare them as demanded,” she explains.
“Today, I am happily placed at KFC, Guwahati. I am living my dream. My parents have also found more confidence in supporting my career as an independent woman,” she adds.
More compelling stories on human grit can be found in their recently published book — Jobs for Disabled in COVID Times.
Edited by Yoshita Rao