10 years later / 2015
“I enjoy the work, I really love to work. I want to see the inclusive society, that is my dream”
While Mohua Paul had reached at CRP all the success she could dream of, this was not where she stopped. She was holding the position of an assistant director, when she decided to go even further and not only work for people with spinal cord injuries.
Her vision was to take advocacy for persons with disabilities to another level and therefore, in January 2008, she founded together with her colleague and soul brother Albert Mollah “Access Bangladesh Foundation”. This new organisation was designed to work at the national policy and advocacy level. The main idea behind Access Bangladesh is to enable persons with disabilities to come out of their traditionally allocated role of recipients of charity and welfare. Mohua Paul and Albert Mollah strongly believe that a change of attitude has to take place in persons with disabilities as well, to encourage them to become self-reliant and not dependent on others. They should be enabled to become productive members of society, which will help them to live a life with dignity and self-respect.
“I feel this is my responsibility, to give a chance to others. I do it automatically. I feel close to other persons with disabilities.” The motivation to do more for more persons with disabilities drives her to relentlessly fight for their rights and their further inclusion in the Bangladeshi society.
Mohua Paul is a devoted networker. With her positive attitude, her strong will and an unwavering persistence, she creates relationships and connects people. A broad smile shines on her face and in her eyes when Mohua Paul says: “I don’t mind to phone politicians every day. If we talk and talk, government will eventually improve their facilities. I also encourage media to write about our issues.” Mohua Paul likes to work in a team. “I like to support the group; they are the leaders. I am not a leader.”
Mohua Paul is positive about the changes achieved so far and optimistic to see more change coming. Although she acknowledges that there is still a lot to be done, she says: “I can see change. I see how society is changing, how people’s attitude is changing. Before, nobody was talking about disability. “
With her life-long dedication to her cause, Mohua Paul’s role with policy makers from local to national level has become a very strong one and her voice cannot be ignored. She is a true pioneer in Bangladesh, a champion of the rights of people with disabilities and among them especially women and children. As result of her contribution to the society she has been awarded ‘Joyeeta’ (victory of women) in 2015 by the Savar Upazilla Parishad of the Government of People’s Republic of Bangladesh. She has also been awarded in 2016 by Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, a voluntary membership based national action oriented mass women’s organization, for her work.
Despite all her achievements, Mohua Paul remains a humble person who is grateful to others, among them first of all to her father, who supported her from childhood in all her undertakings.
”All my life lots of people helped me, so I think about what I can do for others. It is my dream that all types of persons with disabilities can be included in our society.”
“The first day, when I was going to office, people from the whole locality came around to watch me go to office in my wheelchair, it was very awkward and I felt terrible.”
Mohua Paul (born 1961) was only 12 years old when she was afflicted with lower limb paralysis. A chance visit to the Center for the Rehabilitation of the Paralyzed (CRP) gave her life a new direction. Among Mohua’s many contributions to the growth of the CRP is the Women’s Center, which provides shelter to women with disabilities who have no home; it also has a program that trains mothers to provide basic treatment to their children with disabilities.
At age 12, Mohua Paul was afflicted by transverse myelitis, which left her with lower-limb paralysis. It also left her educationally stranded because the school was unwilling to handle the extra responsibility of a child with disabilities: she only went in to take her exams. Then, in 1976, during a trip to Dhaka for follow-up treatment, she went to the CRP. Mohua decided to continue her studies at Dhaka, completing her secondary school examination in 1988. She had, meanwhile, begun working at the CRP, starting out in 1982 as a receptionist-cum-secretary and rising to take over as assistant director in 2002. Mohua has long believed that persons with disabilities who work alone face odds that seem insurmountable: however, with an organization and a team of people to back them, life becomes less daunting. “CRP and I were growing together, learning a lot together,” she says. An efficient program implementer and excellent manager, Mohua has built a skilled team in the CRP. The CRP’s Women’s Center-a place for women with disabilities who have nowhere to go-is her brainchild, rising out of her observation that if the mother of a child with disability is trained to provide basic treatment and comfort to her child, it helps them both cope better. The CRP has inspired other organizations-of which there is a network of 150 in Bangladesh today-to work on issues relating to the rights of persons with disabilities, with Mohua driving the “gender quotient” in these discussions. Mohua’s personal philosophy: if one really wants to do something, one can overcome all obstacles to turn that dream into reality.
Center for the Rehabilitation of the Paralyzed (CRP)
South Asia | Bangladesh