Context: An estimated 650 million persons with disabilities reside in Asia and the Pacific, and persons with disabilities aged 19 to 40 are twice as likely to live in poverty as those without disabilities. Youth with disabilities face multifarious challenges and forms of exclusion, particularly due to a lack of accessibility in schools and training centres. Without more inclusive education environments, young people with disabilities are not able to learn the skills they need to become economically independent adults. In 2015, the disability prevalence in Bhutan was 3.4 per cent, 12.2 per cent of whom where young people aged 20-29. While the attitudes towards persons with disabilities in Bhutan are becoming more positive, there is still a strong social stigma of viewing those with disabilities as “disadvantaged individuals.” Changing societal attitudes and facilitating economic empowerment helps enable youth with disabilities to live a dignified life.
Implementation of programme/ initiative: Draktsho Vocational Training Centre for Special Children and Youth was founded in 2001 by Ms. Rigzin Padma Tsogyal, a parent of a child with a learning disability. Draktsho became an NGO in 2010 when it was registered as a Public Benefit Organization. The main focus of the centre is to train children and youth with disabilities in various vocational and life skills that enable them with greater agency and autonomy. The courses and trainings offered include tailoring, embroidery, souvenir making, personal management skills, occupational skills, social skills and a physical fitness programme. The centre also provides counselling, personal coaching and guidance to ensure holistic well-being. Currently, there are two Draktsho centres, one in the capital city, Thimphu, and the other located in Trashigang district in Eastern Bhutan.
In terms of financial support, funding for Draktsho was largely supported by the Bhutan Youth Development Fund (YDF) up until 2009, later funding has been partly provided by Elysium Foundation in Switzerland and Omega Foundation in Finland. Draktsho also derives funding from donations and the proceeds from sales of items created by trainees. The expenditure of Draktsho is approximately US$ 95,000 annually.
Main challenges: Draktsho still has a ways to go to become financially self-sufficient. To achieve this goal, the centre strengthens its secondary income sources by setting up a show room and sale counters of items and goods made by trainees at places where most tourists visit. In addition, it has planned to ensure sustainable funding through an arrangement of a trust fund. One of the largest overall challenges Draktsho hopes to overcome is changing the society stigma surrounding persons with disabilities in Bhutan, so that they can be seen as equal contributing members of society.
Results achieved: One of Draktsho’s greatest achievements is the recognition of the centre as a Public Benefit Organization by the Government in 2010. This recognition indicates that the work of the organization is accepted and appreciated by the government and the people of Bhutan. In the same year, Draktsho became the base for the Special Olympics (SO) Bhutan. Later in 2011, when the country participated in the Special Olympics World Summer Games, held in Greece, the four delegates from Draktsho won a gold medal in the mixed 4 X 100 meters sprint relay race.
By 2012, nearly 60 students received employment after attending training at the centre and 20 students had been placed in public and private schools. Currently, Draktsho provides services to 67 students in Thimphu and 70 students in the east of the country.
Moving Forward: The centre is seeking financial support to strengthen its infrastructure and increase its trust fund; this will improve the centre’s capacity to be self-reliant. Draktsho also plans to build connections with businesses and relevant organizations to secure employment opportunities for their trainees. In the long term, it aims to expand services to areas of Bhutan other than those already covered.
Replicability: Draktsho recognizes that there is a lack of strong advocacy for the education of youth with disabilities, particularly those in geographically isolated areas. An education rich in vocational and life skills helps pave a brighter future for youth with disabilities, enabling them to be economically and socially independent; this can be applied to any setting. Additionally, Draktsho’s work emphasizes the importance of shaping a more positive public image of youth with disabilities to promote greater social integration and cohesion, which is much needed in the region.
Draktsho official website : http://www.draktsho-bhutan.org/about-us/
Date: May 18, 2017