Australian Volunteer supports strengthen Disability Research Centre, Kathmandu University
Vicki Hannam, a social worker and lecturer from Sydney has been supporting the Disability Research Centre, School of Arts, Kathmandu University, since April 2019 as part of the Australian Government’s Australian Volunteers Program.
The Disability Research Centre was established in 2015 in the School of Arts to seek and promote new knowledge about disability in children and adults, including the impact of disabilities on children, individuals and families. It also examines the efficacy of different policies, interventions and support methods.
Within Nepal, polar opposite distinctions occur within the disability sector. Sensory disabilities (vision, deafness and hard of hearing) have some good resources and rich ongoing research occurring. However, psychosocial and intellectual disabilities have few resources and little research undertaken.
My role as a Program Development Worker has many components including liaising and building collaborative networks with organisations working with people with disabilities in Kathmandu. I am lucky to work with very creative colleagues, who have a vast array of knowledge and experience in the disability sector.
As our centre is part of a University, the importance of educating students on the need for society to be more sensitised on the needs of people with disabilities, as well as the ‘diversity’ of disability, is integral. Developing, expanding and collaborating with teachers to include disability issues in their curriculums at a university level has given me the opportunity to liaise with many different fields of study.
I have been fortunate to be involved in collaborative training and teaching within the Community Development field, Kathmandu University. Disability Studies 1, an undergraduate course and Disability Studies 2 (which is currently piloted) which specifically examine theoretical, cultural, social frameworks of disability in Nepal. Practical excursions have also been arranged to Non-Government Organisation (NGOs) working in the disability sector, as well as lessons in Nepali sign language, to enrich the students learning experience.
Community health students learning sign language
The Disability Research Centre (DRC) centre has been involved in much of the disability research within Nepal - an example of this being the Disability Atlas of Nepal, a collaborative piece by DRC and UNICEF.
The Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) is an important source of population data in Nepal. Disability is one important area where CBS has been keen in gathering information through the Census and Nepal Living Standard Survey. The main aim is to promote data visualisation so that potentially it can enhance the understanding of the cross-cutting issues of disability in Nepal across policy forums and organizations working in this area. In this Disability Atlas 2016, there are three sections. In section I, prevalence of various types of disability is shown for 75 districts on the district map of Nepal. This section has separate districts maps for children with disability. In section II, different types of disability are mapped in radar diagram for various population groups across Nepal. In section III, prevalence of different types of disability are shown across several age groups and gender.
I have been in this position for eight months and look forward to the remaining four months of my assignment.
I am honoured to have the experience of working toward a more expansive and positive outcome for those living with and working in Disability in Nepal.
Vicki Hannam has worked in social work internationally and within Australia since 1990 in the areas of HIV/AIDS, sexual health, hepatitis prevention and treatment, alcohol and other drugs ,disability, mental health and cross-cultural development work. She holds a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Sydney.