Sarthak Educational Trust held its 8th National Conference on Disability on the 17th and 18th of December 2021. The conference was held online and hosted several panel discussions. Our founder and executive director Nidhi Goyal was a part of the “Be a job creator, become an Entrepreneur!” panel along with other imminent speakers from across industries. The discussion started off with a question posed by Archana Khurana from Human Rhythms – “How do new digital platforms come together to form a new futuristic, visionary ecosystem with new entrepreneurship opportunities?” Thilakam Rajendran (Alliance to Promote Abilities and Rehabilitation) took this question forward and gave several real life examples from her experiences – as did other speakers including Pawan Kumar Muntha (Swadhikar), Vineet Saraiwala (Atypical Advantage), and Rahul Gupta (Axis Bank). Niranjan Khatri (ISambhav)stated that organisations need to be empathetic to the support needs of persons with disabilities, and former state commissioner for persons with Disabilities TD Dhariyal also brought in an extremely crucial point – “Many people with disabilities have had to become entrepreneurs because of a lack of employment opportunity in other spaces. We must shift from this lack of choice to an environment of encouragement for entrepreneurship”
Our founder and executive director Nidhi Goyal focused on why looking at gender is important when we think about what an enabling entrepreneurial ecosystem for persons with disabilities looks like?, and shared several insights on interlinked barriers that women with disabilities face. She highlighted the lack of opportunities that exists due to stigma and the prevalent protectionist lens through which women with disabilities are looked at and considered a”burden”.
Nidhi also spoke about how business is a looked at as a male dominated space, which leads to the control of finances rarely ever being with the women and even less so for women with disabilities. She pointed out the confluence of several other barriers as well – “Several dalit women with disabilities we spoke to told us that they weren’t allowed to set up shops in certain areas that could have been more lucrative for them. We must go beyond gender to look at other intersections as well”. She concluded by stating that the imagery of a successful entrepreneur – as a non disabled male person – needs to be disrupted.