Monday, September 20, 2010

Empowerment of People with Disabilities and directing them towards the national development process

    (One of the beneficiary from Ipaloga D.S. Division) 

Project Goals
The economic, health and sanitation situation of two hundred and fifty families who have persons with disabilities identified in Ipalogama, Talawa and Eppawala divisional secretariat divisions in Anuradhapura district will be enhanced by 30% (from the present level) by the end of three years.

Intermediate Goals 

  • Have built the capacity of the staff members of the project 
  • Increased the awareness of government officers on rights of persons with disabilities 
  • Have organized people with disabilities at divisional level as a pressure group 
  • Have provided knowledge and skills for people with disabilities on identifying enterprises and developing entrepreneurship 
  • Sixty families of persons with disabilities involved with income generating activities and have contributed to the development process 
  • Have changed the attitudes of people with disabilities and their family members 
  • Have monitored the past year project and ensure it’s sustainability 

Activities and Results so far... 

Awareness programme on the project objectives for government officers of Galgamuwa divisional secretariat division

Attitudes of the government officials and politicians toward the NGOs in Sri Lanka could be changed and corporation could be built up to make successful the project. 
Support of the government officials and politicians were given to gather the persons with disabilities into village level groups 
Government officers were agreed to give their recommendation and to monitor when providing income generation loans. 

Creating awareness on project, human rights, fundamental rights and equal opportunities for people with disabilities and their parents /guardians

Created the awareness and changed the attitudes on human rights & rights of people with disabilities among the participants of the programme 
3 participants have received the consultation support from the human rights commission as a result of the programme.  

Developing  leadership skills of associations leaders 

Participants acquired and strengthened leadership skills
Negative attitudes on holding leadership were minimized among the participants  
Knowledge on organizational documents and records were increased  
Action plan was developed by the participants for their association 

Training on basic business, financial investment and enterprises development

Knowledge on basic business, financial investment and enterprises development were enhanced among the participants 
Member families were followed up and given the guidance. 
New member families has started their income generation activities in the second phase of loan 
Issues on book keeping and accounting of the divisional associations were identified and solutions were provided 
Problems and issues faced by members were discussed 
Annual work plan was developed for each divisional associations 
Experience sharing activity was implemented with the participation of executive committee members of 09 divisional associations and they could identify their potentials 

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Works done so far...

    (The Group of WWD in Polonnaruwa District) 

Over the last 12 years, AKASA has implemented several projects that help fulfil its mission. The projects can be categorised as follows:

1. Organisation of Self-help Groups or Association Building: 
AKASA mobilises persons with disabilities or their family members, to organise themselves into self-help groups. AKASA provides support by training members in organisation skills, facilitating meetings, and networking.

2. Counselling and Empowerment: 
AKASA provides counselling to people with disabilities and their family members, encourages positive attitudes, and empowers them with knowledge about their rights and opportunities available for them.

3. Income Generation Support : 
AKASA supports the economic empowerment of self-help group members by :
o Training members to start up and develop self-employment/income generation activities.
o Creating and funding a revolving micro-credit system, this is then run by the self-help groups.  The micro-credit is given to members to set up or to develop self-employment/income generation activities. 

4. Skill Development: 
AKASA provides training in activities like painting, basket-weaving, soap and candle making to persons with disabilities, so that they can earn an independent living.

5. Awareness Building and Advocacy: 
As part of its mission to create a conducive and friendly environment for persons with disabilities, AKASA conducts programs targeted at stakeholders like Government officials, medical professionals, educationalists, politicians, media professionals, families and the civil society at large. These programmes aim to generate greater awareness about the rights and needs of persons with disabilities especially for women with disabilities. It also aims to build a positive and sensitive view about them and to solicit and encourage support on the fight against discrimination and lastly in its fulfilment of attaining equal rights and opportunities. 

AKASA and its Founder/President have been featured in several media articles and programmes, creating an enlightened awareness about people with disabilities. Further, as a member of the National Council for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD), its President is able to highlight issues faced, especially by poor women with disabilities, to the country’s policy makers and administrators. AKASA also uses its membership in various forums for advocacy.

6. Vocational Training Centre, Talawa: 
AKASA runs a residential training programme for young women, aged 18 – 35 years, at its Talawa centre. Here, women with mental impairment, mobility impairment, speech impairment and/or hearing impairment are taught tailoring, craft-making and agriculture/horticulture, activities suitable for livelihood and which can be utilized once they are back in their rural homes. The duration of the course is for 24 months. Thereafter, AKASA provides a small grant (usually by means of a sewing machine or a dairy cow) on graduation, to start up the activity at home.

7. Material Assistance: 
AKASA has provided assistance for its more economically deprived members in the form of roofing sheets, special toilets for persons with disabilities, assistive devices, etc.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Memberships and Partnerships

AKASA is a member of the following associations:

Anuradhapura District NGO Consortium, a forum of nearly 73 NGOs working in this district. AKASA has been a member since 1998, and has served as its President and as its Treasurer.

Disability Organisations Joint Front (DOJF), a national, umbrella organisation comprising of 21 disability organisations. AKASA was one of the pioneering members, during its inception in 2001, and has served as its Vice President.

Rajarata Wanni Alliance, an alliance of 20 organisations and an alliance of supporters of severely marginalised persons in the Anuradhapura District. AKASA served as its Secretary-General in 2002-03.

AKASA’s Founder/President is a member of the National Council for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD), a policy-advising body under the Central Ministry of Social Service and Social Welfare. She was also a member of the committee that drafted the National Policy on Disability, 2003.

AKASA’s Founder/President is also a member of the National Sports Federation for Persons with Disabilities, having been a member since its inception, and served as its Vice President from 1990 – 1995.

AKASA has been fortunate to receive considerable and consistent support from SHIA (Swedish Organisation of Disabled Persons International Aid Association) over the past 10 years.

In addition, AKASA works or has worked with the following international organisations, receiving financial and/or training support as well as encouragement from them:

Abilis Foundation (Finland)
Basic Needs (Sri Lanka)
CARE International (UK)
The Global Fund for Women (USA)
Handicap International (France)
Healthlink Worldwide (UK)
Friend in Need Society – Sri Lanka
International Service (UK)
Project Trust (UK)
SHIA (Sweden)
SLCDF (Sri Lanka Canada Development Foundation)

Among local partners, AKASA works closely with the following Governmental and Non- Governmental Organisations and offices, receiving both financial and implementation support:

Mahaveli Authority
Social Service Department, Central Government
Social Service Department, North Central Provincial Council
Ministry of Environment, Central Government
Ministry of Health, Central Government
Jayasilee Trust Fund
Rotary Club, Anuradhapura
Islamic Rehabilitation Center – Thihariya
Numerous private citizens

Vision, Mission & Goal

AKASA believes that people with disabilities must enjoy the same human rights as everyone else and the best way to achieve this is by empowering persons with disabilities, through education and economic development.

Our Vision
A society with equal opportunities for full participation is available to all.

Our Mission
We support people with disabilities in Sri Lanka in order to protect them from economic, political, cultural and social discrimination. We encourage them to develop their skills, abilities and talents in order to obtain equal opportunities for full participation in society and help them to live as independent, self-reliant citizens of Sri Lanka.

Our Goals

  • To prevent people with disabilities in Sri Lanka from being discriminated against, economically, socially, politically, educationally and culturally.
  • To provide them with equal opportunities in society.
  • To create awareness among the families of persons with disabilities and the general public in Sri Lanka, about the needs of people with disabilities, so that people can begin to understand them and care for them.
  • To help people with disabilities to live an independent life.


In 1984, Ms. N.G. Kamalawathie, a young Sri Lankan woman from a lower income, rural background, ventured out of her family home to seek a job and independence in the capital, Colombo. A childhood bout of polio had left her with permanent mobility impairment. Hence, she faced many impediments, and often needed to create her own opportunities and cope with various struggles.

This led her to campaign for improved public access for people with disabilities, but she found it difficult to get her lone voice heard.

Recognizing the strength in numbers, in 1989 she formed the ‘Sri Lankan Federation of Women with Disability’ along with five others.

Inspired after attending the UN Beijing Conference on Women in 1995 and brimming with new ideas on organisation and mobilisation, she established AKASA on the 30th of December 1995, re-organising the erstwhile federation. At that time, it had 36 members.

AKASA started by conducting a survey on the opportunities, projects and services available for the rehabilitation of people with disabilities in Sri Lanka. The survey covered 10 Divisional Secretariats in different provinces of the country, focussing specially on areas where community based projects had been implemented. The survey revealed that rehabilitation opportunities were very scarce. Further, community participation, especially of people with disabilities and their family members were neglected, in the implementation of the projects.

Women with disabilities in Sri Lanka were often confined to their homes, over-protected by their families yet isolated by a society that stigmatised them. They had few opportunities for economic, social or cultural participation in society and little sense of self-worth. Change begins with self-belief. AKASA embarked on a process of mediation, aimed at a drastic change in the attitudes and behaviour of women with disabilities and female family members of people with disabilities, so that they would be empowered to organise themselves and demand their rights. This would-be organisation was envisaged to become a power block of women with disabilities, and one that would fill the identified void of participation, by people with disabilities, in their own rehabilitation activities and services.

AKASA trained 371 mediators in 10 Divisional Secretariats between 1997 – 1999. Initially all the mediators were non-disabled women, but now, the mediators are a mix of women and men, with and without disabilities. The mediators identified women with disabilities or women with family members having disabilities, and talked to them and their families about possibilities open to them. Gradually this was opened up to men with disabilities and their families too.

The survey revealed that the situation for people with disabilities was worst in the Anuradhapura District, especially in the war torn villages. Hence AKASA decided to locate itself here, and opened the project office in Talawa on 1st June, 1998. On the same day, a vocational training centre for young women with disabilities was opened adjacent to the project office. Both premises and the buildings were donated by the Government. The buildings were bare granary storehouses and were converted to office and vocational training facilities, with minimum resources.

From 2004 until early 2008, AKASA managed the running of a residential home, (on behalf of the Ministry of Social Services, North Central Province), for orphaned and abandoned girls and women with mental impairment in nearby Saliyapura until its turn over back to the Ministry last February.

In 2007, AKASA joined and participated in a South Asian Project (together with India & Bangladesh) to create spaces to advocate and communicate rights for women with disabilities. Also in the same year, AKASA started programmes and activities for mental health clients in Anuradhapura and Puttalam Districts.

Today AKASA has over 3200 members, organised in a bottom-up approach, beginning with small groups of 4-8 members within a village. Up to eight of these small groups within a village form a village group or association. Elected representatives (President, Secretary and Treasurer) from village groups within a Division combine to form a Divisional group or association. AKASA has 13 full-pledge Divisional networks in the Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa Districts of the North Central Province. These groups form valuable support systems, and give its members the opportunities to discuss individual problems, help each other find solutions, organise collective actions, etc. AKASA supports the groups with skill training, a micro-credit fund endowment for self-employment development, and interventions to improve their quality of life.


All over the world, people with disabilities face strong social stigmas and a multitude of obstacles in accessing their fundamental human rights. They are economically, socially, politically, and culturally isolated. Their health and sanitation needs are neglected. Women with disabilities are even more disadvantaged, facing the dual burden of disability and gender bias.

This is the situation in Sri Lanka as well. The prevalent belief here is that people with disabilities have no potential to contribute to society, or to be independent. This attitude denies them the education, training and opportunities to utilise, develop and strengthen their talents and potential. According to the National Policy on Disability, 2003, ‘people who have disability are among the poorest segment of the Sri Lankan population’. Poverty and societal barriers create a vicious, self-perpetuating cycle.

AKASA or ‘the sky’ in Sinhala is the acronym for Aabadha Sahitha Kanthawange Sangamaya, the Sinhala for the Association of Women with Disabilities. AKASA is a network of self-help groups, devoted to creating opportunities for its members. Although the governing Executive Committee comprises solely of women with disabilities or female guardians of persons with disabilities, AKASA membership and programmes include both men and women with disabilities, and their families.

AKASA is based in Talawa, a small town in the Anuradhapura District of North-Central Sri Lanka. AKASA located itself here after identifying this district, through a national survey, as one of the least developed in terms of opportunities and services for people with disabilities. Of the nearly 73 NGOs in the Anuradhapura District NGO Consortium, AKASA is the only one working on disability issues.

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