Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) organises a walkathon to spread awareness and sensitize people to the cause of PWDs

Ahmedabad, November 19, 2016: 300 women from 27 villages of Gujarat and affiliated to the Ahmedabad based NGO, SEWA, walked several kilometers to honour and relive some of the hardships that the Thums Up team led by Boniface Prabhu faced, while covering half the course of the 3,500 KM long Thums Up VEER Kashmir to Kanyakumari road expedition. This walkathon started at the SEWA Gram Mahila Haat and concluded at Gujarat Vidya Peeth.

Padam Shri awardee Boniface Prabhu who has been India’s No. 1 wheelchair tennis player for years and the country’s first ever Para world-championship medal winner – is on a mission to create awareness and sensitize people to the cause of Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) through the Thums Up road expedition.

The walkathon by members of SEWA in Ahmedabad was also organized to spread awareness towards the cause of PWDs and to sensitize people about their daily needs.

During a stopover at Ahmedabad and while acknowledging the gesture of these 300 women solar engineers of SEWA, the Thums Up team, Boniface Prabhu and American India Foundation (AIF), returned the favour by teaching the ladies the A, B, C of sign language. Team Thums Up and Boniface along with members of civil society have been campaigning to mainstream sign language and also make it an official Indian language. The expedition team is also using this road journey to reach out to and teach atleast 10,000 people, the basics of sign language.

The welcome ceremony and the walkathon was attended by Mr. Rajneet Kohli, Zonal Vice President, Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt Ltd and Kapilaben Paramar, President from SEWAThese dignitaries along with employees of Hindustan Coca-Cola and members of SEWA, later flagged off Boniface Prabhu for the next leg of the expedition, which will now halt at Mumbai.

Earlier in the day, The Thums team and Boniface Prabhu visited the Goblej factory of Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages, where a sign language training program was organized for the employees at the Plant. Boniface also spoke to them about being inclusive and how mainstreaming PWDs will benefit the country. He said that as per the 2011 census, there are 26.8 million PWDs in India and only 3% of them are gainfully employed. This is unlike some developed countries where the employment rate of PWDs is 30% to 50%. The World Bank estimates that by excluding PWDs from the mainstream leads an economy loses 3%-7% of GDP realization. Thums Up VEER K2K seeks to play a role in integrating PWDs into the mainstream.

Speaking at event, Mr Rajneet Kohli, Zonal Vice President, Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt ltd, said, “Thums Up along with partners American India Foundation and Being Human, already run the VEER campaign, which trains PWDs to make them employable. We are now focusing on the softer aspects that help integrate PWDs into the mainstream, guided by govt’s Accessible India campaign. We are glad that Boniface is leading Thums Up VEER K2K and I can’t think of a better place and time to start this journey. I also cannot think of a more appropriate brand than Thums Up to undertake this mission. Thums Up believes that everyone has the potential within, to achieve everything they deserve and this is best articulated by its tagline – Main Hoon Toofani. I look forward to working with Boniface and reviewing the outcomes of this expedition.”

Speaking on the occasion, Kapilaben Paramar, President SEWA said, “This mission by Thums Up and Boniface Prabhu not just highlights the hardships faced by PWDs but in many ways also represents the peculiar situation of women in rural India. Both these segments of society lack empathy and opportunity and therefore both need to be mainstreamed. For these reasons, when we heard of the news of the Thums Up road expedition for Accessible India, we wanted to be a part of it. The journey which Boniface Prabhu has embarked on will help in sensitizing people to learn and use sign language and motivate PWDs to recognize and unleash their true potential. The walkathon organized today is a symbolic representation of this thought. We support Boniface Prabhu for this noble initiative and are hopeful about the positive change this mission will bring to the lives of PWDs in the country”

The Thums Up VEER Kashmir to Kanyakumari (K2K) road expedition, was flagged off on November 9, from Jammu and KashmirDuring the week, the expedition has stopped at Amritsar, Chandigarh, Delhi, Gurgaon, Jaipur, Ajmer and Udaipur before reaching Ahmedabad. The expedition has covered 1500 KMs over 10 days, stopping at several places to attend events, meetings and sign language training classes, all aimed towards an Accessible India. Over the next three weeks, Boniface will further participate in more than 35 events hosted and facilitated by India’s largest selling soft drink brand – Thums Up jointly with the American India Foundation a leading NGO.

Elaborating on the Thums Up VEER K2K road expedition, Boniface Prabhu said, “While we are all focused on the core issues of technology, infrastructure, manufacturing etc, I believe that we cannot make the India of our dreams if we do not leverage the skills and the potential of the PWDs. While on one hand, we need to mainstream the PWDs and create opportunities for them, on the other we also need to be sensitive to their unique requirements. Being a quadriplegic myself, the onus was on me to take this step forward. I am hoping that this expedition will help set the ground for some meaningful interventions in this space. Let us make an Accessible India, as we make our India.

Thums Up VEER K2K expedition aims to:

  1. Promote and spread the use of sign language in India
  2. Understand the aims and aspirations of the differently-abled with a view to influence public policy which is beneficial for them
  3. Create a platform for exchange of ideas and best practices between PWDs
  4. And motivate and inspire the specially abled to unleash the potential within them

Traversing the longitudinal plane of India, crisscrossing 14 cities, Boniface will aim to finish the journey in about 30 days involving over 200 hours of driving time. The expedition is also being supported by Being Human Foundation, Times Now, Indian Oil, Hindustan Coca-Cola and several others.

About Thums Up VEER program

Thums Up along with Being Human and American India Foundation launched VEER, a Campaign focused on unleashing the potential of the differently abled people in our country. Campaign VEER aims to address challenges such as inclusive education and employment, skill training and development, and advocating for disabled-friendly technology. With the support of its partners, the campaign is working at imparting vocational training to these individuals and ascertains their requirements so that they can be made job-ready. Hans Foundation has joined hands of the campaign a strategic partner.

About Coca-Cola and Citizenship

The Coca-Cola Company has always placed high value on good citizenship. At the heart of business is a mission statement called the Coca-Cola Promise — “The Coca-Cola Company exists to benefit and refresh everyone that it touches.” This basic proposition means that the company’s business should refresh the markets, protect, preserve and enhance the environment and strengthen the community. Coca-Cola India provides extensive support for community programs across the country, with a focus on education, health and water conservation. For further information on Company’s India operations and its products, please visit www.coca-colaindia.com

About AIF

The American India Foundation is committed to catalyzing social and economic change in India and building a lasting bridge between the United States and India through high-impact interventions in education, livelihoods, public health, and leadership development, with a particular emphasis on empowering girls and women to achieve gender equity. Working closely with local communities, AIF partners with NGOs to develop and test innovative solutions and with governments to create and scale sustainable impact. Founded in 2001 at the initiative of President Bill Clinton following a suggestion from Prime Minister Vajpayee, AIF has impacted the lives of 2.5 million of India’s poor and aims to reach 5 million by 2018-19.  Learn more at www.AIF.org

About Being Human – The Salman Khan Foundation

Being Human – The Salman Khan Foundation is a registered charitable trust set up in 2007. It works in the areas of education and healthcare for the underprivileged. www.beinghumanonline.com