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Disabled but not disheartened

Jeeja Ghosh, 38, was born with cerebral palsy, but didn’t let her disability get in the way of her work. She is the sole bread-winner of her family, despite her defect in speech and balance. With a little help from her married sister Anindita, Jeeja supports her mother Jayshree.

Having worked with the Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy for the past 12 years, Jeeja has become the face of rights advocacy. On December 9, she received the Late Shri ND Diwan Memorial Award 2007 from the National Society for Equal Opportunities for the Handicapped in Mumbai, in recognition of her achievements.

She is mainly involved with the vocational training centre, Ankur, at the Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy. “Our focus is to lobby for rights,” she said, adding: “Young adults are trained to become self-advocates, besides being educated about cerebral palsy.”

But it has not been smooth sailing for Jeeja. She appeared for her ICSE exams from the institute. After completing her schooling from La Martiniere for Girls, Jeeja graduated from Presidency College with honours in sociology. Later, she did her master’s in social work from Delhi University and her final degree in disability studies from Leeds University, UK.

“It was very different going out in the open but I enjoyed it thoroughly,” she says, referring to her switch from the institute to La Martiniere and beyond. “Everyone was very supportive and that went a long way to make me feel comfortable. Some people at the college, especially some of the faculty members, supported me a lot, and I have never looked back,” she adds.

“People have the wrong perception that the disabled are a liability to society,” Jeeja signs off.

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