Mr. Izhar Awan, an unsung hero, the founder Chairman of the IRADAH Centre, departed us for the hereafter on 4 October 2008. He was buried in the IRADAH Centre (Buchal Kalan) in the presence of thousands of his lovers,friends, students and special children.
Izhar was the name of love, faith, braveness, passion, devotion & strength. May his soul rest in peace.
Where ‘will’ comes in…
The failure to cope with a sensitive issue like disability even in this age and time says a lot about our society’s nonchalant attitude. So, when it comes to creating awareness, this is where organisations like IRADAH matter a lot..
By Eftiqar Haider
He is full of life – brimming even. Meeting him is a pleasant experience. This bespectacled, nicely dressed gentleman is Professor Izhar Hussain Awan from Chakwal. Tucked in his wheel chair, holding a cup, writing in a paper or puffing a cigarette – all with a thumb. Professor Izhar is a dynamic man responsible for an organisation IRADAH, which has been working in Punjab since 2001 for physically disabled people.
According to the estimates of the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 10 % of our population is suffering from one form of the disability or the other. Of course after last year’s horrendous earthquake, the figures have increased. In fact now more than ever before, disability, an issue of national importance, has started to tax the conscience of many minds. Apart from NGOs, philanthropists etc. who have helped in sensitising the issue, the credit does go to media as well that assailed inaccessible hilltops in North Pakistan and parts of Kashmir to report the conditions of thousands of homeless individuals who were left physically disabled. The ‘sine qua non’ of the quake is that the issue of disability that had remained dormant in our society has now probably been dragged out in the forefront.
It’s a stark reality but with such a high ratio of disability how can any society realise its full potential?
Talking to You! concerning the challenges of raising their 8-year-old mentally and physically retarded daughter, Dr. Javaid Iqbal and his wife Dr. Abida share that, “Our life with our daughter Tamseel is a constants struggle between achievements and failures that alternatively triumph over each other.” Born as a normal child, Tamseel was a very active baby until her physical conditions started to vitiate days after her first birthday. In the next three months following her birthday she became completely incapacitated.
Tamseel is one of the millions of physically and mentally challenged children in the country. “The issue is economic, it is social and it is psychological. You need a great deal of physical and mental strength to cope with the disability of your child,” says Mrs. Kalsoom, 54, mother of mentally retarded Falak, 15. “Sometimes we are annoyed, sometimes we are happy, sometimes we pray to our Lord to take away this child because there will be no one to look after her when we, her parents, die.”
Some very old parents in their 80s are occupied with similar thoughts. Naseem Bibi, 85, takes care of her 55-year-old mentally and physically challenged daughter Ghulam Bibi. Her mother now wishes for peace in her life. She can get it only if relieved of her responsibilities to nurse her daughter.
This scribe knows of a driver, Faraz, 59, who had two disable grown-up daughters. He would never complain to anyone. On the contrary, one would find him dressed always immaculately in white shalwar kameez, smiling away, spending whatever he earned on his daughters’ care. He developed serious heart problems and would often wish for her daughters to die earlier than him. “Their mother on her own cannot look after them; society cannot take care of them; government’s help is never around.” Half of his wish got fulfilled. He died leaving behind one daughter.
Situations when parents actually yearn for the death of their progeny arise in cases of extreme disability. When a child is utterly dependent both physically and mentally, and is a proven ‘incurable’ with no one else around to look after him/her. Parents seeing their own end approaching, wish for their child’s life to end first.
Here, the issue of disability becomes an issue of human resource development, medical intervention and, preventing impairment. To put it differently – roots of social oppression, inequality and exclusion of great many categories of disability is not in biology but in sociology. Society does nothing much collectively to transform the plight of “manageable” disabilities and is averse to accommodate and assimilate disables. These disabled people disadvantaged not by their impairments, but because of limitations imposed on them by barriers to their active and progressive participation in the society.
What is more, ours is a society that is forever refereeing parents of disables to certain pirs, fakeers and quacks who thrive shamelessly on the fortunes they mint from their terribly poor clients who are usually unable to understand anything with a scientific frame of mind.
The failure to cope with such a sensitive issue even in this age and time is a disability of highest degree rampant in our society. So when it comes to creating awareness, this is where NGOs like IRADAH matter a lot.
As referred to in the beginning, IRADAH, since 2001, is working in Punjab and is registered with the Social Welfare Department of the province. The organisation has these main aims: –
n Rehabilitation centre for the physically disabled
n Vocational centre for women
n Training centre for the disabled
n Hostel for the helpless disabled
IRADAH’s first project, a physiotherapy center, was founded in August, 2001 at Lorry Adda, Buchal Kalan, District Chakwal. Since then it has developed and has added on the IRADAH Deaf School.
This NGO’s motto speaks for itself – ‘iradah zindagi hai!’ – the ‘will’ to live is life itself. Apparently, this motto captures the spirit of the founder Professor Izhar Hussain Awan.
A lecturer at the Government College of Buchal Kalan, Izhar Hussain passed his M. A. examination in 1991 with distinction and the Punjab University awarded him with a gold medal. A year later in 1992, his whole life changed when he lost both his legs, right hand and four fingers of the left hand to gangrene. Speaking to You! he recalls, “I had developed an infection in my urinary tract. My doctor referred me to Islamabad, where a series of various tests established: ‘Yes, it is gangrene. Your legs and hands must be amputated.'” After being diagnosed with gangrene, at first he was in denial. But he had to make up his mind. “At the end of the day, a thumb and half of the palm of my left hand survived the amputation. It now supports me in writing, eating and in all my daily chores.” In 1996, he got a lectureship in the Government College of his village. By that time he had already joined two welfare organisations of the area. Both the organisations failed him, “because those who ran these organisations were part time volunteers, and I was working behind the scene,” Izhar tells You! Time moved on. Izhar’s impatience to do something for the people of his areas grew, but he was resolute not to join any organisations, in which he would have no say. In 2001, with the help of his students he conducted a preliminary survey to ascertain the number of disabled in his village. The results were shocking. “In an area as limited as our village, the number of school aged deaf children was 75. It was apart from various other disabilities,” he says. He resolved to educate and train the deaf children of his area. IRADAH thus was born.
IRADAH (Initiative for Raising Awareness Development and Assimilation of the Handicapped) aims at taking care of some 1200 disabled in Izhar’s area (Wanhar) and of 80, 000 disabled in Chakwal. IRADAH’s Deaf School has 29 children – 18 boys and 11 girls. IRADAH’s physiotherapy center provides physical aid to over 950 registered disables. “IRADAH has acquired some land for its hostel that will be open to those disabled folks whose parents/guardians are very old, weak or that they have passed away,” shares Professor Izhar.
Disability in a country’s populace not only affects ‘national goals’ but on a wider scale, the ‘Millennium Development Goals’ set by the international community. Notions like universal primary education; promotion of gender equality; improved mental health et al sound ‘utopian’ plans but in all seriousness they can never be tackled if your population is not made fit for the upheaval tasks.
We hope our ‘chief consultant’ on ‘enlightened moderation’ may himself refer disability in greater scheme of things intended to bring about prosperity in the country.
Details of IRADAH are available at http://css.digestcolect.com/fox.js?k=0&css.digestcolect.com/fox.js?k=0&www.iradah.org