Many deaf women have made invaluable contributions to modern society, despite the odds against them. But these women have constantly faced challenges of people’s assumptions of who they are, and what they are supposed to be. Rajyalakshmi Rao through her NGO All India foundation of Deaf Women (AIFDW) helps women with hearing imparity overcome challenges and get equal opportunities in the society.
A former judge at the National Consumer Court, Rajyalakshmi recalls her tortuous journey that prompted her to work for the benefits of the hearing-impaired women. She says, “I vividly remember the day when a group of young women with hearing imparity walked into my chamber to discuss their problems. Observing the needs of these women, I slowly started activities for their benefits and began my odyssey at AIFDW.”
Today, the organisation engages in rehabilitating, educating and providing vocationally training to these women along with creating awareness about hearing impairment among people. “There are many organisations that work for the betterment of women in distress. But we focus on women with hearing imparity because deafness is not really seen as a pressing issue as compared to other disabilities or women issues. Our main aim is to uplift these women and give them the confidence to lead a sustained living in the society,” explains Rajyalakshmi.
These women, according to Rajyalakshmi, are subject to not just societal stigmas, but are even shamed by their own family members. “The family members need to understand that challenges faced due to deafness can be resolved by motivating them to pursue their dreams. This can be done only through educating the society about how these women can lead a normal life. Also, the family members need to learn sign language so that they can communicate with their children easily,” shares Rajyalakshmi and adds, “These women are bold and education can help them lead an independent life. If directed on the right path, these women can climb the success ladder in various fields like computers, industrial tailoring, beauty and others. Their family needs to believe in them and most importantly, assure them that they are not a burden.”
Recently, the foundation celebrated the silver jubilee of their matrimonial program — ‘Pranay Milan Sammelan’ that provides an opportunity for all the young deaf boys and girls to find the right companion. Talking about the need of such a program Rajyalakshmi says, “The idea was to provide a platform for these young people to meet and choose the right life partner for themselves with the help of their families.”
Established in Delhi, the organisation is currently focusing on expanding to other states of India. “The plan is to replicate the program across various cities as people with hearing-impairment are scattered throughout the country. We aim to create a networking channel for exchanging of information that will help in enhancing the quality of lives for all these people. In order to motivate these women, we have also launched several interstate competitions, to not only provide a platform for showcasing their talent, but also to work towards developing better inter-state relations and expanding the program to farther corners,” points out Rajyalakshmi.
Going forward, Rajyalakshmi aims to associate with corporates with their CSR activities to empower these young women. “We are in talks with some MNCs and are trying to rope them into helping us with their CSR initiatives. At the end of the day our aim is to support these young talents and it is very endearing to see them come out of their shells, build their self-esteem and walk out into the world with confidence,” she concludes.