Over the last two years, the Uttarakhand Cluster has been training young people with disabilities to nurture crops and animals in their gardens, in order to generate a livelihood (watch the video here). The project’s impact has been studied by REBEKAH PEDERSON from the University of Melbourne. Here she shares some of what she learned. How did your research come about? I’ve been studying for a Masters of Public Health, with a particular focus on global health. Prior to this I worked as a physiotherapist, which got me interested in disability. My project supervisor was Associate Professor Nathan Grills. He’s from Arukah Network and has strong connections with the Cluster, and introduced the project to me.
Did you travel to Uttarakhand? Yes I visited for a month in September 2018. Most of my time was spent travelling to different project sites and visiting its participants. What surprised you about the study? I was surprised at how well the livelihood activities were taken up by people. And how attitudes were already changing within the two-year project period. I noticed changes in self-confidence, particularly with young people and girls who were given opportunities to sell their goods and were then able to make decisions on what to do with the money they made.
Can you give us an example? Yes, two of the participating girls were in their early 20s. They were previously quite shy, but for the first time they had the opportunity to make choices about what to sell, they were able to interact with people outside the family home, and they were saving money for their future. One wanted to buy a nice dress, one wanted to buy a goat. Family members also came to realise that the person with a disability was capable of the project’s activities – either independently or with some assistance – and it changed their previously negative assumptions and attitudes. And a majority of people and their families would continue with their trades after our evaluation ended. What’s been the key to the high uptake do you think? I think the commitment of the project’s staff in mentoring participants and educating families, alongside completing the trades. And also the strong bond developed from the longstanding presence of the Cluster. Familiarity made it easier for people to join in and feel comfortable. What do you hope your research might help to achieve? I hope it gives some insights into how a livelihood program designed for people with disabilities works, and what things are required to lead to long-term success and improvement in the lives of people with disabilities in similar contexts. What do you hope to go on and do after your Masters is complete? I’d like to work in the field of disability program design and delivery in low and middle-income countries, combining my experience as a physiotherapist with the research skills I’ve attained.
Read Rebekah's full report here.