Equality for the disabled through ‘Dirijaya Prathiba’

Wednesday, 26 June 2013 00:05 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Rashika Fazali According to the UNESCAP (United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific) ‘Disability at a Glance 2010’ report, around 7% of the total Sri Lankan population consists of people with disabilities. This means that there are around 1.5 million disabled people in Sri Lanka. However, in many ways these disabled people are shunned because they are considered ‘worthless’ or  ‘not normal,’ so jobs, educations and family lives do not have to be given to them. This is the notion prevalent among the general public. In order to better the lives of disabled people and provide equality for them, Enable the Disabled (ETD), the social responsibility arm of The Management Club (TMC), along with its principal sponsor Crown Hair and Beauty, is organising a talent show – ‘Dirijaya Prathiba, Obai Mamai’ – which will showcase the talents of our disabled people along with popular local artistes. This show will be a first-of-its-kind where, despite each other’s difference and disabilities, everyone will perform on one platform to give out one message – equality not only for the enabled, but for the disabled as well. Speaking on the concept, ETD President Charmaine Vanderhoeven said: “The Dirijaya Prathiba concept came about when we decided to have something that shows equality and not just awarding achievement. This is equality between disabled and the enabled. We wanted people to understand that just as much as there are talented artistes or singers or dancers or whatever profession they are talented in among able people, there is an equal talent in the disabled. We wanted to bring it out together.” She added that many talented disabled performers were not given a broader platform, so they performed in their own areas: “They will go to the blind school and perform. They have a concert for the disabled but they don’t get together. I’ve never seen them getting together and performing together – the talented local artistes along with the equally talented disabled people coming together on one platform and having a fusion of music and dance.” Dirijaya Prathiba will have numerous popular local artistes such as Neela Wickramasinghe, Lahiru Perera, Dushyanth Weeraman, Channa’s Dance Troupe, and Ravi Bandu and his crew, just to name a few. Popular blind singer Mekala Gamage, who became famous for her hit single, ‘Ahan Inna Ahagena Inna,’ and Kosala Dullewa, a popular disabled dancer, are also among the performers for the show. The money collected from the show will go towards helping disabled entrepreneurs, which is phase two of their program, stated Project Chairperson Jazaya K. Hassendeen. “We are trying to cut CDs of their success stories and give it to motivational trainers. The CDs are gonna cost quite a lot, so for that we need money. That’s why we came to plan one. Plan one is to pull off this event and use this money to enhance the disabled people’s lifestyles.” With around 60 disabled performers and 20 popular local artistes, Dirijaya Prathiba aims to target everyone who feels for the lesser fortunate. “‘Obai Mamai’ means both of us are the same even if my faculties are not intact. I can do whatever you can. That’s the message we want to put across. We want the general public to learn that whatever the normal people can do, the disable can match it. This stage is going create that and showcase it so they will actually believe – we have the belief that the general public will have the same belief in the future,” explained Hassendeen. She also stated that they want to make Sri Lanka a disabled friendly nation. At the show, ETD will also be launching its theme song. Vanderhoeven believes that everyone, either enabled or disabled, is capable of doing anything. For instance, there happens to be a graphic designer who has no hands. She acknowledged: “If his phone rings, he keeps his phone on the ground and picks it up with his toes. He brushes his teeth. He dresses. He does everything with his two feet. He doesn’t miss his two hands. If he can do it, why can’t a person with two hands and two legs – maybe disabled in some way – go out and do something rather than wait for sympathy, charity or wait to be given this or that? They can walk and make themselves capable. I mean that the disabled also have to be courageous enough to go out and do what they can do. They shouldn’t be sitting on their backs and earning money from the public. They shouldn’t drain the economy. They are capable of going out and doing something.” Rashmi Nimesha Gunawardena, famously known as the girl with no hands and one leg who won the Grade 5 scholarship examination, is one example. However, Vanderhoeven stated that the little girl couldn’t take advantage of the scholarship as her parents would not be able to help her if she leaves the village. She explained: “They have to feed her and dress her, but education wise she is excellent. So there are limitations as well. If someone could give her a prosthetic arm, maybe donate one – not those plastic things, but there are little expensive ones that can manage a pencil, she’ll be excellent. So someone has to think of that. Don’t just feel sorry for this girl. I mean she’s a lovely girl. She has a brain in her head, but give her something that makes her useful. Those kinds of people have to be helped for them to do better.” In the past, ETD has organised numerous events like ‘Dirijaya Awards’ that recognise the achievements accomplished by disabled people. This year, however, they will not be having the awards due to the planned show. Vanderhoeven stated that they are hoping to have the ‘Dirijaya Awards’ next year in the north east area. She further acknowledged the principal sponsor for its support, adding, “It’s because of the financial support they gave us that we are able to launch such a big show.” Pix by Anusha De Silva