Draktsho Vocational Training Centre for Youth and Children and Australian High Commission launched a project to enhance the capacity of 160 youth with disabilities through vocational training in Thimphu yesterday.

The project will prepare persons with disabilities for independent livelihood, employment, and help advocate for persons with disabilities.

Executive director of Draktsho, Deki Zam, said that Draktsho started with four students and two teachers. “We are trying to provide platform for persons with disabilities to showcase their abilities. The aim is to provide equal opportunities to youth with disabilities of Draktsho.”

She said that with support from the Embassy of Federal Republic of Germany, Embassy of Japan in New Delhi, and Opening Your Heart to Bhutan in United Kingdom, Draktsho established its first infrastructure in Draktsho East Centre.

Australian High Commission also supported Draktsho in 2014.

Draktsho at present caters to about 200 children and youth with all types of disabilities. Draktsho east centre caters to about 130 students.

The project spanning six months aims to have at least seven graduates ready for employment. The programme will be implemented in Rongthung in Trashigang and Thimphu.

Katherine Storey from Australian High Commission said that each country faces challenges related to disability. “Persons with disabilities face significant hardship and have barriers to education, health and employment.”

She said that the support was part of the puzzle of what Draktsho and the people in the country were working towards shifting public perceptions about persons with disabilities.

Programme coordinator with Draktsho, Gaden Chophel, said that some of the challenges the organisation faced besides funding were human resource constraint, inaccessible infrastructure, and lack of concrete vocational curriculum. “The main objective is to help these students live their lives independently.”

There is only about 18 staff, including the driver at Draktsho.

Bhutan Vulnerability Baseline Assessment 2016, conducted by Gross National Happiness Commission, revealed that absence of quality education in addition to the inadequacy of life skills restrict persons with disability to find suitable employment.

It also revealed that the livelihood opportunities for persons with disabilities were limited and the opportunities were aggravated by discrimination at the workplace and the lack of disabled-friendly infrastructure at the workplace.

The project aims to fill the gaps mentioned in the vulnerability assessment such as the discrimination faced in terms of salary, employment, promotion at work, general relations at work and training and enrichment courses.

Students will undergo vocational training in tailoring, art and painting, basket weaving, mug printing, carpentry, and souvenir production.

Besides vocational training, the project aims to conduct awareness programmes about the abilities of persons with disabilities towards reducing the stigma associated with persons with disabilities in the society.

Australian High Commission funded about Nu 11,34,000 for the project through Australian Aid yesterday.

Rinchen Zangmo