Providing a Voice for the Voiceless
This is a personal account by Paew Rattanamongkol who lives in Thailand. Thanks to CBM partner Daughters of Charity, Paew was part of a project to strengthen the rights of persons with disabilities and is now a community leader assisting people with disabilities and improving their social participation at local community levels.
My name is Paew Rattanamongkol. I am 47 years old and I am from Huai Sisiat sub-district, Loei, Thailand. When I was in grade 1, I had difficulty hearing. I realised that people were calling me ‘the Deaf’ and even people in my family did the same.
During my teenage years, my parents would not allow me to go places like other girls of my age group. At 16, I got married to a man in the same village through the arrangement of our parents. Then, we went to work in Bangkok as construction workers as cheap labour; it was a very difficult time for us.
After seven years in Bangkok, we came back to Loei and we heard an announcement from the government inviting persons with disabilities to register in their locality. In 2010, I got a hearing aid, a device that totally changed my life. It is amazing: I regained my sense of hearing.
Empowerment through training
In 2012, the Daughters of Charity’s team conducted awareness-raising campaigns for persons with disabilities and their families in my village. This has opened me up to new horizons and to disability inclusive development. I have learned many things that could be applied in my daily life and enabled me to help other persons with disabilities to access their rights as well.
I was also being selected as a co-trainer and have undergone a series of trainings. At first, I was quite worried and thought that it was too technical for me. I only finished my high-school studies through non-formal education, and I had hearing difficulties for many years. In our first day in the job as co-trainers, I recalled that my legs were shaking, and my hands were trembling when I stood in front of an audience to share my experience as a person with a hearing impairment. I also gave suggestions to the audience on how to help assist me and Deaf people with respect and to uphold our dignity. I felt so relieved after my talk and happy to have been able to tell others how I wanted them to treat me and Deaf persons like me. Finally, from the third training onward, my legs and hands have not trembled anymore.
“I feel so honoured to be recognised by people in my community”.
In 2014, I was recommended to the Grassroots Public Health Volunteer programme* and I was appointed as one of the village committee members and in 2017 I was elected as a president of the OPD (Organisation of Persons with Disabilities) in my sub-district, a position I still hold today. I felt so honoured to be recognised by people in my community. I am one of the lucky persons who gets support to conduct livelihood activities from a programme working in the top-up online cell phone business. I made use of this revenue to start an organic farm, which has become very productive and helps increase my income now. My family and I are so happy and so thankful for giving me an opportunity to develop myself, to have a job that leads to a sustainable livelihood activity and to become a voice for the voiceless.
I am convinced that if we do goods to others, that good act will come back to us one day. That means the kindness that we show to others will certainly never be wasted.
* The Grassroots Public Health Volunteer programme is offered by the local government authorities in Loei (Tambon Administrative Office) and OPDs. The Tambon Administrative Office in collaboration with health, social and education services work together and support a team of community volunteers and grass roots health workers who provide personal assistance to persons with disabilities, older people, and their families. Volunteers are well integrated into the local government structures.