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Malini Chib: Challenging Perceptions and Fighting for Rights in India

World Cerebral Palsy Day 2017 Civil Rights Award Winner, Malini Chib has used her personal experience living with cerebral palsy to change the way disability is viewed in India, and right around the world.

Malini’s work was a World Cerebral Palsy Day Award winner in 2017. Enter your project or campaign in the 2018 Awards!

Malini’s Mission

A scholar, author and disability rights activist, Malini Chib has made it her life’s mission to ensure rights and entitlements for persons with disability in India.

Born with cerebral palsy in India in 1966, she has played a significant role in raising awareness and promoting inclusion for disabled persons.

Focusing on issues such as inclusion in mainstream education, social perception and access to services, Malini has worked hard to drive attitudinal and legislative changes regarding disability in India.

The journey

Her activism career started in 1992 with a series of National Network Seminars for Marginalised Groups titled: ‘I may be different, but aren’t we all’.

The seminars – held in 3 major Indian cities – addressed professionals, policy makers, government and non-government officials.

In the year 2001, Malini co-founded the ADAPT Rights Group (ARG), a unique group of people working for the empowerment of people with disabilities.

During 2002, this group held a conference called ‘Citizenship and Barriers’.

“We strongly felt that citizenship is the first step towards actively claiming your rights and entitlements within your own country. In India, disabled people have, until very recently, been refused their fundamental right to vote because most of the voting booths lacked accessibility,” explains Malini.

This unstoppable woman has also presented workshops on disability awareness, diversity and equal opportunity, universal design, accessibility to curriculum, and social model of approach to disability in different parts of India.

Her autobiography – One Little Finger  published in 2011 – is an incredible personal achievement that raises awareness about life with cerebral palsy. The book, and in fact Malini herself, were the inspiration behind award-winning movie Margarita with a Straw which drew international acclaim.

Key achievements

When asked what her greatest activism achievement to date was, she describes protesting for children with a disability to access mainstream education.

“Going to Delhi made us win an Act whereby all children with disabilities are included into mainstream education. This is a significant achievement because by going and being in Delhi we were in solidarity with the government,” she says.

The legislation subsequently brought into power was The Right to Education Act 2010, which mandated that all mainstream schools admit children with disabilities.

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 was another key legislative change in which Malini played a role.

She also successfully fought for the rights of people in wheelchairs to participate in the Mumbai Marathon, something which she proudly does each year.

On a personal level, Malini’s advocacy work has been recognised widely by a number of awards including:

  • the National Award for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (2011)
  • the National Award by the President of India (2011) and
  • Dr Batra’s Positive Health Award (2012).

Where to from here?

Malini shows no signs of slowing down in her mission to ensure the rights and entitlements of persons with disability in India.

Despite achieving so much, there is still a lot to do. When asked what she thinks the main challenge is for disabled people in India is today, she replies:

“I think the biggest barrier is access. For people with disability there is no access to public restrooms or public transport. If one is disabled one is totally housebound. Even pavements are dug up or have potholes. Disabled people who need a wheelchair for outdoor use cannot move without an assistant,” she says.

Her overriding message is one of inclusion and awareness. She emphasises that people with a disability just want to be accepted and live a full life. Her message to society is direct and straightforward:

“Just talk to the disabled person. Don’t talk to the helper or relative. Focus on the disabled person.”