Prabeena Kumar Bebarta
During Undergrad Studies, I shared a room with peers with disability. This experience completely changed my outlook to the perceived differences that exist between ‘them’ and ‘us’. It left my mind unsettled with questions about the lives of these people. This quest led me to pursue Masters in Social Work with specialization in Disability Studies and Action at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. This opportunity made me understand the connotation behind the word ‘disability’ and its various aspects in different contexts.
Having completed of my studies, I worked at DRDF and TISS where I was engaged in various research projects aimed at identifying and assessing the felt and perceived needs of people with disability living in rural and tribal areas. After two years of research experience, I strongly wanted to go for a doctoral study and had many questions to explore. During this state of transition, I got through the Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellowship Program, which I felt as a golden opportunity to get the grassroots experience and understand firsthand the gaps in implementation of various Government schemes. At TISS, apart from gaining practical knowledge about the issues and concerns of persons with disability and their stakeholders, I got strength and skills to work with other marginalized groups on issues related to education, health, livelihood and advocacy. Therefore, PMRDF was an opportunity to explore working of Government firsthand and contribute in the processes.
After a year as PMRD Fellow, I certainly feel empowered to understand the functioning of the Government and the local institutions. The experiences so far have been interesting and insightful. I have had the opportunity to work on various projects apart from the regular monitoring and supervision work such as; opening a generic medicine store, setting up an old age home and documenting the success stories. In this year, I have learnt a little bit of the Saoura tribal language. I find it exciting that during my field visits, I get a good response quickly from the people if I use my broken tribal language. They open up very soon and show a sense of acceptance; and it has helped me to build a good rapport with the people so far. Everyday experience has been so unique and enlightening and I am very happy to have such moments in my life.
For the coming year, I have made a roadmap to work on a few selected issues that are highly imperative such as livelihoods, quality education and healthcare. I would also want to create a few model villages where the impacts of most of the flagship schemes are clearly visible.
I believe working closely with people and the government is certainly going to help me understand the reality and build the perspectives, which will contribute in my doctoral studies and my academic career in future.
Prabeena Kumar Bebarta is based at Gajapati in Odisha. He is an M.A. Social Work with specialization in Disability Studies and Action. He has been engaged in various research studies on disability noteworthy being ‘CSR Initiatives in Disability Sector’ and ‘Need Assessment of Persons with Disability in Rural and Tribal Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh’ for two years before joining PMRDF.