Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS) in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has initiated the project ‘Samarthya’, the Life Skills Education for adolescents with disabilities studying in the special schools of Odisha, for promoting their health and wellbeing, since August 2020. The project is being implemented in close collaboration with the Department of Social Security and Empowerment of Persons with Disability (SSEPD), Government of Odisha.

On the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the project logo of Samarthya was unveiled by Dr. Achyuta Samanta, Founder, KIIT & KISS. Among others, Smt. Bratati Harichandan, Director, Social, Security and Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities Department (SSEPD), Government of Odisha; Dr. Deepa Prasad, State Program Coordinator, United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA); and Dr. Prashanta Kumar Routray, CEO, KISS were present at the virtual program and addressed the participants. Students from special schools across the state joined virtually and witnessed the program.

As a pilot initiative, UNFPA is introducing Life Skills Education in special schools for adolescents with disabilities in Odisha. As per the available data there are around 157 special schools across the state in which around 8,500 children are enrolled having disabilities such as visual, speech and hearing as well as intellectual disabilities. Studies have shown that children and adolescents with disabilities feel socially isolated and lack confidence. They are also almost four times more likely to experience violence than children without disabilities, and nearly three times more likely to be subjected to sexual violence. They are at an increased risk of bullying and emotional harassment which can have long-term consequences for their social development and mental health. Further, adolescents with disabilities have access to low levels of sexual and reproductive health knowledge, making them vulnerable to exploitation.

The significant rationale of the project is to reach out to adolescents with disabilities as well as their caregivers with appropriate information related to health including sexual and reproductive, wellbeing, safety and rights of AWDs so as to enable them to lead healthy, safe and productive lives, free from all forms of violence and abuse.