Bangladesh: Mohua Paul

The first day, when I was going to office, people from the whole locality came around to watch me go to office in my wheelchair, it was very awkward and I felt terrible.

— Mohua Paul

Mohua Paul (born 1961) was only 12 years old when she was afflicted with lower limb paralysis. A chance visit to the Center for the Rehabilitation of the Paralyzed (CRP) gave her life a new direction. Among Mohua's many contributions to the growth of the CRP is the Women's Center, which provides shelter to women with disabilities who have no home; it also has a program that trains mothers to provide basic treatment to their children with disabilities.

At age 12, Mohua Paul was afflicted by transverse myelitis, which left her with lower-limb paralysis. It also left her educationally stranded because the school was unwilling to handle the extra responsibility of a child with disabilities: she only went in to take her exams. Then, in 1976, during a trip to Dhaka for follow-up treatment, she went to the CRP. Mohua decided to continue her studies at Dhaka, completing her secondary school examination in 1988. She had, meanwhile, begun working at the CRP, starting out in 1982 as a receptionist-cum-secretary and rising to take over as assistant director in 2002. Mohua has long believed that persons with disabilities who work alone face odds that seem insurmountable: however, with an organization and a team of people to back them, life becomes less daunting. "CRP and I were growing together, learning a lot together," she says. An efficient program implementer and excellent manager, Mohua has built a skilled team in the CRP. The CRP's Women's Center-a place for women with disabilities who have nowhere to go-is her brainchild, rising out of her observation that if the mother of a child with disability is trained to provide basic treatment and comfort to her child, it helps them both cope better. The CRP has inspired other organizations-of which there is a network of 150 in Bangladesh today-to work on issues relating to the rights of persons with disabilities, with Mohua driving the "gender quotient" in these discussions. Mohua's personal philosophy: if one really wants to do something, one can overcome all obstacles to turn that dream into reality.

Center for the Rehabilitation of the Paralyzed (CRP)