In Nepal, like many countries in Asia, child born with disabilities are considered a burden on the family and often separated from the family or institutionalized.
The story of little Bimal, all of 7 years old, is a heart rending one. He was born with birth defects in both his hands, a congenital defect which his mother took in her stride but not his father. His mother did love and care for him but he lost her in an accident. After his mother’s death his father left him and went away to India. Bimal’s uncle took him in and enrolled him in a school. Life was very hard for Bimal– he was bullied relentlessly and had very few friends in school on account of his disability.
This is often the case with children with disabilities – they face bullying from peers in the classroom and playground and often drop out of school due to these pressures. In Bimal’s case, the school intervened and his class mates were counselled and the bullying stopped gradually – he was encouraged to attend school regularly by his case worker and he continued with school.
When the Village Child Protection Committee collected the data of children in jeopardy (CIJ), Bimal was identified as the most vulnerable child in his village as he was disabled and living without parental care. The Para Social Worker (PSW) and project staff met Bimal and his uncle to further assess the situation and reported back to the VCPC for further support. The VCPC presented the difficult situation of Bimal to the ward chairperson for support.
Next, they contacted his father in India to convince him to come back. His father was supported with some income generation opportunity and Bimal’s story was also covered by local media which brought much attention to his plight, raising some money. This money was used for his education.
He has received education materials three times – books, pens, a bag, as well as clothes, blankets and bed sheets. Simple things, but very precious for the child. Bimal’s case caught the interest of respected government officials in Nepal like the Chief District Officer, the President of Nepal Journalist Federation and other government officials after project staff shared it at various forums. This attention and the safety provided, helped the boy gain confidence and he is happier now with his family, school teachers and friends.
The Principal of Bimal’s school feels, “Bimal was irregular in school before but after receiving support [from Save the Children], he attends school regularly. He is not different from other students though he has a physical disability. He is a unique student – in learning, playing games and also his maturity.”
Save the Children has been implementing SAHAYATRA project integrating three components: Education, Child Protection and Child Rights Governance, since 2015. The project intends to promote the education and protection rights of marginalized children in Kalikot District. Working with local partner’s the project has formed 12 Village Child Protection Committees (VCPC), to prevent and respond to cases of abuse, expoitation and violence against children, and now collects data on vulnerable children as well. Once Bimal’s case was idenitified he was provided with the educational materials he needed to go to school.
In Hindi, Bimal means “pure or untouched” – that is true for Bimal - he is untouched by fear and doubt. Various studies have shown how children with disabilities tend to be 3-4 times more likely to be exploited, it’s good to have a story like Bimal where the system actually worked well to change his life. One life at a time. One child at a time, whatever it takes to reach and make a difference in the life of every last child.