Leave No Person With Disabilities Behind

I am one of many in Bangladesh and around the world who does not have equal access to a range of basic rights and resources. The social discrimination that surrounds disability excludes me from society and has left me isolated.
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I am Pushpa Rani. I live in the Naya Mishri village in South-Central Bangladesh. I am 50 years old, but I have had to spend my life crawling around like a child. Can you imagine? I am physically disabled. I had pneumonia when I was 8 years old, my situation deteriorated drastically, and I became extremely weak. Eventually, I lost all movement in my legs.

I was married when I was only 12 years old. Due to my disability, my father had to give 66 decimals of land to the groom as a dowry. I had my first child when I was 13; my second when I was 15. My husband was a day laborer. Most of the people here struggle to earn a living. They either work in fishing boats or as day laborers, earning around 4 dollars a day. It's also a disaster-prone area. Once there was a huge flood and I had to crawl through knee-deep water to find temporary shelter on high land. We found a tree and my father helped me up. I clung there for 5 hours until the water level dropped. Many other natural disasters, including strong and devastating cyclones, have hit this area. I've seen many people die or also became disabled.

The sufferings I have been through are indescribable. In all seasons, whether winter or rain, I have to crawl to move from one place to another. I crawl to the toilet like a child. Going to the toilet during the rainy season is the most challenging part. I get wet and dirty. I don't have many clothes and so I can't put on dry or clean ones.

I am dependent on my husband. He would have to collect drinking water from a school far from our home before he went to work. The only water I could access was from a pond near our house. Very often the water was inadequate. My husband would sometimes be away for several nights for work. During those times my sufferings knew no bounds. I couldn't wash clothes; I couldn't wash myself. Now we have a deep tube well for 100 people, but I still feel very sad when I think of those days; I can't resist my tears recalling those griefs.

As a mother, I couldn't give my children what they deserve from me. My disability has deprived them of a normal life. Can you imagine, as a mother, how that makes me feel? They couldn't study. I had to arrange my son's marriage when he was only 14 so that his wife could assist me at home. Can you imagine how selfish that is as a mother to do to your own son? I thought there was no-one like me. I still shed tears recalling those days. My husband and daughter-in-law help me in all aspects. Without their assistance my life could be harder than it is now. However, I am still very weak. Weak in a sense that I can't participate in the decision-making process in my family. My husband, son and daughter-in-law take all the decisions. My opinions are mostly disregarded. Even if I disagree with them I don't oppose their decisions because I am totally dependent on them.

I consider disability as the greatest disaster in my life. I can't take a bath daily, I can't access the water, I can't go to the toilet normally, I can't move from one place to another, I can't raise my voice in my family or make decisions. I am dependent.

I rarely go out of the house. The social discrimination that surrounds disability excludes me from society and has left me isolated. I had no awareness of social issues or my rights as a person.

With the help of ADD International, I joined a self-help group and then later a disabled person's organization. This engagement with other disabled people has enlightened me. It fills me with a feeling of unity and strength.

My time with ADD International has brought a change in me. I have learned many things about disability rights, water sanitation, government services and facilities, hygienic practices and economic empowerment. Now I speak out in public forums. I don't feel helpless. The unity of our organization gives me the strength and hope for a better life. I have learned that the government is providing various services and facilities for disabled people, including a disability allowance. There is much more that the government and local councils could do to make my life less challenging, like providing a wheel chair so that I can move around easily.

I am one of many in Bangladesh and around the world who does not have equal access to a range of basic rights and resources. Millions are being left behind in an age when no-one should have to go without. As part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, we have an opportunity to tackle the root causes and consequences of poverty, exclusion and marginalization. The 15-year framework can bring improvements to my life. In particular, SDG 6.2 (access to sanitation and hygiene) is very important to me: I would like a sanitary toilet attached to my house so I can go to the toilet with dignity. SDG 16.7 (inclusive decision-making) matters a lot to me too. I want to participate in community and societal matters. I want a voice and to be a partner in ensuring the goals leave no person with disabilities behind.

This article is part of the Leave No One Behind series, which puts a spotlight on people facing the worst levels of poverty, marginalization and exclusion. These powerful stories help bring to life how the Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Climate Agreement can make a meaningful difference in people´s lives. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact the Leave No One Behind Partnership.

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