United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) have jointly conducted a vulnerability assessment of people with disabilities, and recommend that legislation should be in place to ensure the wellbeing and dignity of the vulnerable group.
A five-day training to formulate Bhutan’s National Disability Policy (NDP) was completed earlier this month, followed by multi-sectoral task force members working to develop a concept note to be submitted to the Cabinet, as the first step towards developing the policy.
Such a policy will help in articulating the inclusion of people with disabilities at national policy making level, and to protect and promote their rights against discrimination and marginalization. This is a fundamental right inscribed in the Constitution.
The policy will also help in reducing the increasing trend of poverty impacting persons with disabilities. It is now a common sight to see the visually impaired or physically challenged people along the streets of Thimphu or other urban areas that are begging for alms.
Breaking down the barriers and promoting the rights of people with disabilities even before a legislation or policy is the civil society organization (CSO), Draktsho Vocational Training Center for Special Children and Youth.
Draktsho, supported by the Youth Development Fund (YDF), was established in 2001, and currently the organization has 140 students with disabilities, some as young as 7 years, being given special education in Thimphu and also in Rongthung, Trashigang.
The founder of Draktsho, Jigme Wangmo, saw that many of the disabled children were overprotected at homes or were not included in family outings or social gatherings because of parental concerns over societal norms. Therefore, the disabled children lacked exposure to the outside world and were faced with minimal or no career prospects.
Draktsho was established to educate and train the students in vocational and life skills, aiming to make the students productive and gain self-employment. After the age of 18, the students are vocationally trained for employment in areas, like embroidery, tailoring, painting, baking, etc. More than 70 graduates are currently self-employed and earn a decent income.
The deputy director of Draktsho, Deki Zam said, “We wish to make them independent and be employed in the future, and in Bhutan, we don’t have other choices than the vocational training.”
Big Bakery run by Draktsho graduates is one of the success stories. The delightful breads from the bakery are on sale in almost all major shopping outlets in Thimphu.
Recently a group of Draktsho graduates have opened a massage and spa business in lower Motithang area. However, the business is seeing a setback. One of the owners of Dungsam Spa, Tshering Dorji, said that the setback is due to people being skeptical about their abilities. In addition, he said due to limited financial means, they are unable to advertise their spa.