Breaking the bias through youth advocacy
Mind Thitiphorn Prawatsrichai
Mind was part of our Access to Employment project in Thailand. She tells us what she has learnt from the project and how we need to work together to break the bias around girls with disabilities.
My name is Mind Thitiphorn Prawatsrichai. I am one of Leonard Cheshire's lead youth advocates in Bangkok, Thailand. Recently, I joined the Intergenerational Advisory Group for Leonard Cheshire's upcoming research on gender, disability and education with UNGEI and the World Bank.
How my disability changed my view of the world
Before I acquired my disability, I worked in the entertainment industry as a personal assistant to one of the Thai artists. Everything was great. But after I had an accident, I became a wheelchair user. It was a huge challenge in my life. I don't mean to imply that being a person with a disability is worthless or bad. But I want to share that I am now attempting to do things independently in a new way. But I am still facing barriers. For me, as a female wheelchair user, equality and quality accessibility are the main challenges.
But a lack of global disability data means that some of the challenges disabled people face can go undocumented. From my point of view, research and evidence data on gender and disability is so important. It's especially important for youth advocacy and for challenging bias that is too often faced by girls with disabilities.
Many people believe that a boy is a stronger, smarter, and better leader than a girl. But for me, it is not true, and it is not a fact.
Why we need to share disabled youth's voices
In 2021, Leonard Cheshire initiated the Access to Employment project in Thailand. The project gathered youth with disabilities to receive training on advocacy. It also created an online platform for youth with disabilities to send their stories on their personal experiences of the challenges they face as a disabled person in Thailand.
The results shocked everyone, including me! I am one of the youths with disabilities in Thailand, and I think my life has faced too many challenges already. But there are still so many challenges that other youths with disabilities face. Some I can relate to. And some are unbelievable!
The platform also opened space for many young girls with disabilities to share the stories of bias they've faced. Stories that made them feel uncomfortable speaking or calling out for their "lives" and "rights" in public to be heard. Unfortunately, despite many laws and policies in effect, not everyone has equal access to them.
Being "female" in gender means you can face bias right from the start. Many people believe that a boy is a stronger, smarter, and better leader than a girl. But for me, it is not true, and it is not a fact. It is called "bias."
Girls need the same opportunities as boys
Nowadays, we can see research, data, and news showing that girls with and without disabilities are demonstrating their abilities to the world population. They're confirming that girls and women, or what we call the female gender, are also strong, smart, and capable of being good leaders! Whatever boys have access to, a girl should also have access to the same education.
Being a girl with a disability doesn't mean you cannot access quality education. Girls with disabilities can grow and have more opportunities in life as a result of education. This can be access to employment or even starting their own business. It means they can receive wages, an income to take care of themselves, live independently, and rely less on others.
After all, the gap between people without disabilities and people with disabilities can be narrowed. So let's break the bias together!