A policy consultation on ‘Disability and Employment’ was held both physically and virtually in Goa on May 11, 2023, by the Office of the State Commissioner of Persons with Disabilities in collaboration from the U.S. Consulate General-Mumbai, Mariwala Health Initiative and Rising Flame. This consultation was conducted as part of the Disability, Equity, Justice Working Group Civil 20 India, which is a global platform for independent disability interventions under Indian leadership, stated a press release.

The inaugural function was attended by Guruprasad R. Pawaskar, State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Goa ; Taha Haaziq, Secretary, Office of the State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities; Sita Raiter, Deputy Public Diplomacy Officer, US Consulate Mumbai; Nidhi Ashok Goyal, Founder and Executive Director, Rising Flame and Priti Sridhar, Mariwala Health Initiative where they highlighted key issues affecting persons with disability including employment opportunities, inclusion, entrepreneurship and mental health.

“1.3 billion persons in the world live with a disability and exclusion of this group can cost a country up to 7% of its GDP – a high price. Therefore, it is in the human, social and economic interests of the global community that the needs of this group and their recommendations are included in the 2023 G20 Leaders’ Declaration,” says Mr. Guruprasad R. Pawaskar, State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Goa.

Persons with disabilities are far more likely than those without disabilities to be unemployed, underemployed, or economically inactive. This systematic exclusion has significant macroeconomic implications for the G20 countries, with large and measurable economic losses related to disability that are rooted in unemployment, under employment, and labour productivity losses because of a disabling environment that make people with disabilities who are employed less productive than they would otherwise be.

“Disability-related barriers are not just a concern of a few people—they impact all of us. Aging, wars, conflicts, and the pandemic all lead to people acquiring disabilities. If policymakers don’t think of us, growth and development will neither be inclusive, nor will it be sustainable. It is time that persons with disabilities are seen not as individuals needing charity, but as individuals who contribute to society and to the economy. A discussion like this ensures that we are making recommendations to the G20 leaders to not only have persons with disabilities be a part of the labour force today, be business leaders tomorrow, but be a part of the vision of the jobs and work of day after as well,” says Nidhi Ashok Goyal, Founder and Executive Director, Rising Flame, National Coordinator of DEJ and Steering Committee Member, C20 India.

In light of these issues, a day-long policy consultation was held at Fortune Miramar, Goa and on Zoom with panels unpacking: ‘Employment livelihoods and inclusion’; ‘Entrepreneurship and Future of Work’, and ‘Workspace Mental health and safety’.

Taha Haziq, Secretary, Office of the State Commissioner of Persons with Disabilities, Goa said, “This is a great opportunity for us to mainstream the concerns of persons with disabilities within this process. Their realities and experiences are important for us to make inclusive policies. At the consultation we showcased not only their challenges but also best practices which need our attention.”

As part of discussions on the first topic – employment livelihoods and inclusion, the panelists including Shanti Raghavan, Founder of Enable India ; Avelino De Sa, President-Disability Rights Association Goa; Deepika Ghosh, Lead, Employment and Entrepreneurship, Changeinkk and Akshay Tyagi KSF discussed on accessibility, job reservations in the government and private sectors, business opportunities, and highlighted the importance of supporting people with disabilities in starting their own businesses.

In the second session titled Entrepreneurship and future of work, speakers including Nipun Malhotra, Founder, Nipman Foundation; Apoorv Kulkarni, Head of Research, OMI Foundation; P Rajasekaran, Co-founder, V-shesh and Tilakam, Nedar Foundation emphasized the importance of equal opportunities, independent living and economic self-sufficiency.

The last session on mental health and safety covered topics including access to mental health services for all forms of disabilities, ways to address sexual violence at the workplace, need for mental health awareness, and the availability of reasonable accommodation and accessibility for people with disabilities. The panellists for this session were Srinidhi Raghavan, Rising Flame; Priti Sridhar, Mariwala Health Initiative and Ishani Cordeiro, Women Enabled International.


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