Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The force to reckon with

Bhavna Botta is a young woman based out of Chennai, who works for inclusion, peace and non-violence. Her entrepreneurial skills, drive to bring tribal rights to fore, and goal of facilitating disability inclusion make her a force to reckon with.

The earliest memory of my childhood is vague remembrance of me screaming for therapy sessions, but I fondly remember  all the fun I had with my teacher Mrs. Sowmya and my friends  at Vidya Sagar. Since I am person with cerebral palsy (speech impairment and limited motor ability), I use an eye pointing communication system. I am the first born in my family, so I was the most pampered of the lot, I guess. I have a younger sister who is my best friend and solid supporter for all my initiatives. (She has finished her masters in engineering and working in the USA.) I finished my high school from Vidya Sagar and went on to do higher secondary from Lady Andal Matriculation School, Chennai and then bachelors in commerce (corporate secretary ship) from  Ethiraj College for women. Again this was the best time I had, literally being outstanding student (very little studies and more movies!)

In 2011, as soon as I finished my graduation I wanted to start off an initiative which had a social cause inbuilt. I went on an exploration spree, since I wanted it to be an economic model too.

I came across the story of Sri Kusum Rajiaha who had done a lot of research on Ahimsa silk.  It caught my interest .Then as I was contemplating on it I came across Jharcraft which was working with tribal’s and also on ahimsa silk. My interest got growing and I contacted  them.

I was impressed and was totally taken by the idea. Then the concept Saahaagika, an exclusive boutique for ahimsa silk in Chennai started brewing in my head. I went around looking for a place, bank loan and all the permission   etc. I failed in locating an accessible place (me being a wheel chair user that becomes the priority).So ultimately I started it at our own premises at Srinagar colony.

My dream was to build a business which could get lively hood for some people with disabilities. So I compromised and chose to work from my own premises. Though it had a separate place for work, it was just enough for me and my sales person. So my dreams were unfulfilled. Loneliness cropped in and with the floods last year I thought enough is enough and I formally shut down the premises.

Yes still I am exploring online marketing but I am not sure of it. But there is a steady stream of calls still from old customers and new .I have no answers as of now.

All along my heart was ( will always be)  in activism particularly in disability sector. I am a proud member of Disability Rights Alliance and contribute to  rights based initiatives. I wanted to do something more and started  Connect Special .I am still struggling with this new venture but hopefully what I could not achieve with my boutique of employing PWDS ,Connect Special might in future. Maybe that's what keeps me inspired and  going.
I strongly feel inclusion is a human right. Inclusion is still at a rudimentary level and in pockets because there is no one institution which works only for it. Inclusion at all levels -schools, colleges, jobs, community has to be strategically planned and done in partnership with the community. My experience is people are wary of inclusion due to lack of awareness.