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SIALKOT: A visually impaired woman has become a symbol of strong spirit, courage and enthusiasm by successfully running several welfare projects for the disabled, especially visually impaired people in the region.

Talking to Dawn here on Tuesday, Shamsa Kanwal said her journey for the betterment of people with disabilities was going on successfully due to her high spirits, and encouragement and donations by exporters and philanthropists here. She also claimed to be the first Pakistani visually impaired woman to have successfully completed the year-long Duskin Leadership Training programme in Japan offered to her by the Japanese government for betterment of disabled people.

She said: “I gained and learnt a lot from the Japanese people through this training course regarding the betterment and welfare of disabled persons.”

She added that she was now better equipped to serve the disabled in Pakistan.

Shamsa is the youngest among nine siblings and is blind by birth like her three other siblings. Their impairment, she said, was a result of cousin marriages in her family. She graduated from Lahore and started working with a non-governmental oganisation (NGO), Mile Stone Society for Special Persons, which encouraged and motivated her to work for the welfare of the disabled.

Shamsa has been running an NGO, Safia Foundation, since 2012, named after her mother Safia Bibi. The NGO provides free wheelchairs, white canes, funds for the betterment of disabled people, besides providing them quality education with active cooperation of some philanthropists.

She told Dawn that she never got discouraged because of her disability while doing anything good. She had a talking software installed on her laptop that enabled her to work on information technology-related projects. She said she had also worked for the betterment of people who became disabled after the devastating earthquake in Azad Jammu and Kashmir in 2007 under a World Bank-funded programme Japan Social Welfare Development Fund (JSDF).

“Everyone will have to change thoughts and attitude towards disabled people for making them useful citizens.”

She said love, care, affection and better social attitudes were direly needed for making the visually impaired and disabled people useful members of society. Sharing her plans, Shamsa said she intended to urge the government to initiate a nationwide survey about disabled persons in Pakistan, as no proper data on the community was available. She also sought a special helpline for the disabled to help solve their social problems.

Published in Dawn November 10th, 2016