Izhar Hussain Awan
This profile was prepared when Izhar Hussain Awan was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
Izhar’s dream is to see the physically disabled assimilated into regular school, home, and work life in Pakistan. He is doing so through combination of direct service provision, training and education, and advocacy on the behalf of disability rights. Izhar is helping the physically disabled come out of their houses through camps that welcome them, provide a safe environment, and most importantly, that show them how many other people are living daily with disabilities just like theirs. The camps are also intended to welcome the non-disabled from the community to help fight prejudice and alter misperceptions about the disabled as being somehow non-human. This is a key first step: As long as children and others with disabilities are literally locked in their homes, they will never be able to live anything close to normal lives, nor will they be able to integrate into mainstream society as employees, students, neighbors or friends. Designed integration must come before full, natural integration. Izhar also sees basic educational, vocational, and medical services as key to integration of the physically disabled. He has developed a model service center in his own district that provides schooling, vocational training, and medical services including physiotherapy. As a follow up to vocational training, Izhar has just started a loan and small grant program to help clients set up small businesses. In addition, Izhar is lobbying with the federal government to ensure that the disabled are employed in the public sector as per the quota awarded to them. At the same time, Izhar uses both print and electronic media to create better awareness of the disabled and in particular of their potential and talent. He features the disabled on radio and television shows, each time highlighting a particular talent or passion of the individual. For example, he introduced a deaf young girl on the radio where she played a musical instrument to let herself be heard. Izhar has developed partnerships with national level citizen organizations to support and adopt his initiatives. In turn their network disabled clients helps Izhar reach more people. To date he is working primarily at the village and district level in Chakwal, but has begun developing a strategic plan for growth. In the future, Izhar plans to add a home for the senior and physically disabled who are left alone.