Empowering disabled people across Pakistan
Disability is a diversified way of living and the foundation of an inclusive society is based on embracing diversity; this is what I have learned from my professor Mark Harrison at University of East Anglia while I was studying on the prestigious British Chevening Scholarship in 2007.
I was born with a physical disability and faced every challenge a person with disabilities faces in any developing country. With an aim to empower my fellow disabled people in Pakistan, I initiated a self-help group in 1997.
This group was struggling for advocacy and awareness of the rights of disabled persons. In a few years we realised that we have to enhance our knowledge and develop an institution if we want this ten percent unheard, uncounted and unseen population in the mainstream.
Opon my return, in 2008, I worked round the clock with my team and we transformed this self-help group into a leading cross disability organisation called the Special Talent Exchange Program (STEP), which is contributing to rights based policy development at national as well as international level.
In the year 2012, UNESCAP nominated me as promoter for the Asian Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities 2013-2022 under Champion of the Decade on Disability Award, which I owe to my professors in the UK and my fellow citizens in Pakistan.
STEP was conceived and initiated by persons with disabilities in 1997. Being a cross disability organisation STEP is committed to mainstreaming disability in development through empowering individuals and organisations of persons with disabilities as well as sensitising society about a rights based approach.
STEP has coined the idea of leadership of persons with disabilities in Pakistan to ensure a just, accessible, and inclusive community in which the human rights, citizenship, contribution, and potential of people with disabilities are respected and celebrated. Promoting volunteerism, awareness campaigns, leadership training, employment exchange, innovative livelihood opportunities, research and information dissemination are major endeavours of STEP.