Disability Not the Obstacle to Humanity

Devi Maya on Awareness Program

A case story of Bhutanese Refugee Woman

For the past three decades, LWF Nepal has been supporting refugees from Bhutan in partnership with UNHCR and in cooperation with the with the Government of Nepal. Over 110,000 refugees have been resettled as one of the most successful resettlement programs in the world. There are remaining 6,500 refugees in the two camps in Jhapa and Morang districts with 46.42% women. The current assistance is geared towards self-reliance by providing more livelihood opprotunities and increasing access to national services. Though there are provisions for safety nets and community common fund for supporting person with specific needs, persons with disabilities (PwDs) have been facing added challenges.

Currently the population of PwDs is 310 (55% male and 45% female). Ms. Devi Maya Gurung is a PwD with positive energy and leadership. She was 20 years old when she was expelled from Bhutan to come to Nepal. Born as moderate person with disability, Ms. Gurung has spent her life in the refugee camp. Now she is 48 years old and still struggling for the better future. In the early years, she faced situations of being neglected by the community. She used to stay alone at her hut with very little interaction with the community. “I used to curse myself for being disable woman and refugee”, said Ms. Gurung, “however I did not lose hope and possibility in life”.

LWF Nepal organized and empowered women, children and PwDs in the camps with affirmative actions. Bhutanese Refugee Women Forum (BRWF), Bhutanese Refugee Children Forum (BRCF) and Bhutanese Refugee Association of the Disabled (BRAD) were established for protection and advocacy for their rights. Ms. Devi Maya provided leadership to BRAD and child protection in the camp school. She says, "when I joined BRAD, there was less opportunity for the PwDs to participate and contribute in various programs in the camp. Gradually, we started organizing PWDs especially women with disability to empower them gradually and mitigating the social-stigma towards the PwDs in families, camp community and organizations”.

Ms. Devi Maya Gurung was elected as President of BRAD where she found a strong platform to raise the voices for PwD women and encouraged women to be independent financially through income generating activities. She has become a special envoy to all PwD and women to raise their voices against Sexual and Gender Based Violence and supported female survivors with disability in their access to justice.

"Though, I am serving voluntarily and not able to contribute much to my family financially, I am more satisfied when I see smiles at the faces of PwD women”, says Ms. Gurung. Dr. Prabin Manandhar, Country Director of LWF Nepal says, “I salute Ms. Devi Maya Gurung for her tireless and digilent efforts to organize and empower PwD refugee women as contributing, responsible and equal participants in camp community”.