Linked with Center for the Rehabilitation of the Paralyzed CRP.
She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
She says: “The first day, when I was going to office, people from the whole locality came around to watch me go to office in my wheelchair, it was very awkward and I felt terrible”.
She says also: “If an unmarried woman or girl is disabled, the family looks after her by providing shelter, food and a little bit of care. But if a married woman becomes disabled then she just does not have any place to go,” she says. “After a while, the woman will be kept away from her children, the husband will also leave her and the woman will be left all alone without any support or care. So, [the] CRP should develop a program that will provide care and support for women who have no place to go to”.
Mohua Paul – Bangladesh
She works for the Center for the Rehabilitation of the Paralyzed CRP.
Mohua Paul was born into a financially comfortable family on 18 July 1961 in Chittagong, Bangladesh. Her father was a banker and her mother a homemaker. Her four brothers are also doing well professionally.
When Mohua was 12 years old, she was afflicted by transverse myelitis, a rare neurological disorder that left her with lower limb paralysis. Mohua loved dancing and was learning to dance before her illness. At hospital, her relatives would console her that she would be well again, but Mohua knew otherwise: she had overheard one of her brothers, a doctor, saying that she would never again be “normal”. Hospitalization provided an epiphany: she saw the nurses and doctors remain caring and affectionate despite working long hours and realized that she too wanted to do something that would help people.
Mohua’s education had to be postponed as her school was far from home and unwilling to give special care to a student with disability. Mohua also did not want to become the centre of attention or receive special treatment so she only went to school to take exams. To this day, she believes that she could have done much better if she had gone to school every day.
She went to Dhaka for follow-up treatment at the Center for the Rehabilitation of the Paralyzed (CRP), which had been set up by a small group of Bangladeshis and a visiting physiotherapist. When Mohua first came into contact with the CRP in 1976, it had not yet begun functioning officially (this was to happen in 1979).
Mohua, then a student of Class VII, completed her secondary school examination in 1988. Even while studying, she began working at the CRP, beginning as a receptionist-cum-secretary in 1982 and rising in rank and responsibility. “On my first day at work, people from the whole locality came around to watch me go to my office in my wheelchair, and people kept on watching me go everyday, it was very awkward and I felt terrible,” Mohua recalls.
In 1992, she became the administrative officer and, in 2002, took over as assistant director. She is also coordinator for several CRP centers. Despite the schedule, Mohua joined up for training courses, and attended both national and international level workshops and seminars.
Mohua has always understood the importance of teamwork. She believes that if a person with disability works alone, s/he confronts odds that seem insurmountable, but if there is an organization and a team of people to back them, it makes life easier. When she took over certain program aspects at the CRP, she felt the organization needed to grow so that it could help people with various kinds of disability. “CRP and I were growing together, learning a lot together,” she says.
At the CRP, Mohua is known as an efficient implementer of programs and an excellent manager. Over the years, she has built a skilled team: she feels that an organization will grow bigger once a team of skilled people is in place – it does not matter whether one is “able” or “disabled”. She has, therefore, worked hard to train and mobilize people.
The Women’s Center at the CRP is Mohua’s brainchild. She also saw that the mother of a child with disability is the most directly-affected person – apart from the child. So, the CRP has a program to train mothers to support, and provide basic treatment to, their children with disabilities.
Mohua’s forte is working with and leading her team into a coordinated effort, equally distributing work and responsibilities. With her disability defining the limits of her travel, she coordinates most of her responsibilities by collecting information from different departments and passing on instructions for implementation. This work method arises from a personal philosophy that if one dearly wishes to turn a dream into reality, all obstacles can be overcome.
The CRP has inspired other organizations – a network of 150 organizations today in Bangladesh – to work on issues relating to the rights of persons with disabilities and Mohua has driven the gender quotient in discussions. Mohua has represented both the CRP and Bangladesh at various national, regional, and international meetings, workshops, seminars, and conferences. The information she garners at these events percolates down to her colleagues and other organizations as she makes it a point to disseminate it through discussions and meetings.
Mohua has also long been an apostle to the government for the need to build disabled-friendly schools, hospitals, and offices – even retrofitting old structures – and enact laws that enable people with disabilities to travel, work and live independently in society. (1000peacewomen).
Center for Rehabilitation of the Paralyzed – Bangladesh, Photo Gallery.
Disabilities became a national issue in Bangladesh immediately after the civil conflict of 1971. Thousands of people were maimed during the conflict. Veterans received treatment and artificial limbs from India, the former Soviet Union, and some eastern European countries. People who were born with disabilities saw the effectiveness of artificial limbs for the first time. They realized that new assistive devices could change their life style and enhance their capacity to live independently. A surge followed in the number of artificial limbs imported into Bangladesh by private entrepreneurs and individuals, but these could be used only by those who could afford to buy them. Poor people with disabilities relied on small-scale production, as they had before. Local NGOs, foreign donors and United Nations agencies have been helpful in establishing the production of assistive devices in Bangladesh. (full text).
Towards Equality, annual CRP report, 44 pages;
PRODUCTION AND DISTRIBUTION OF ASSISTIVE DEVICES FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES, Part One;
SLD Project Implementation core team of Manovikas Kendra.