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Talking about social inclusion is one thing but shifting from words to deeds is indeed a totally different matter.

No doubt that social inclusion is high on the agenda of many donors and International and National NGOs but this common commitment often struggles to get traction and hardly gets an impact.

Surely working to make the level playing field even is hard work and takes time and does not bring quick results.

Yet the British Council that, in the recent years has turned itself into something bigger and more meaningful than just promoting English culture and language, is setting an example on how resolve and will can make the difference into making Nepal a more inclusive nation.

Particularly the British Council Nepal has been working very hard to include and involve persons with disabilities in its mission and daily operations.

Interestingly this is happening thanks to a resolute position of the British Council Nepal’s management to do whatever possible to accommodate the special needs of persons with disabilities, leveraging as much as possible, simply and yet very effective partnerships with persons with disabilities.

It has been a journey, a real learning experience for the entire staff of the Council that, step by step, recognized and acknowledged that their institution could have done more to include persons with disabilities.

It started relatively in a small way, leveraging its institutional mandate to promote the use of English language among disadvantaged groups: since three years the British Council Nepal has been opening its doors to committed youths with disabilities offering them, yearly, free English classes voluntarily run by some of its staff, a real example of corporate volunteering.

The classes has been transformational and not only for the students but for the personnel of the British Council Nepal who invested their time to meet and know the participants, mostly members of the Jawalkahel Wheelchair Sport Club, J.W.S.C., a local association promoting social inclusion and disability rights through sports and arts.

Having students with disabilities attending English classes, offered the staff of the Council with the opportunity to learn and better understand the challenges faced by youths living with disabilities in a unequal society.

Since then, it has been an incremental effort that saw the renovation of the entrance hall of the building hosting the Council, turning the space disable friendly.

Interestingly members of J.W.S.C were asked to support the Council in designing the renovated space, with a special focus on making the toilets accessible.

From there, there were more editions of the English language course and more initiatives to come together to work for a more inclusive society.

We are talking about a simple but powerful “collaborative” that does not even imply financial support of any kind but rather something founded on a strong mutual understanding.

After all J.W.S.C is a very small association that normally meets in the open air of Jawalakhel roundabout, its members are a varied group of citizens helping each other and working together for a better Nepal.

With the right platform, J.W.S.C. was able to get connected with an established institution like the British Council Nepal, become itself part of the solution, helping the Council to become a more inclusive and accessible institution.

The collaboration saw J.W.S.C being invited to the 2017 edition of the Women of the World (WOW) Festival, the festival organized by the British Council to celebrate womanhood worldwide where the members of J.W.S.C performed an amazing wheelchair dance together with students from Campion Academy who are very active in promoting disability rights through their All Inclusive Empowering Club.

For the 2018 edition of WOW Festival, British Council Nepal decided to invest again on accessibility and instead of spending huge sum of money in venue renting, it come to agreement with the Faculty of Architecture, Tribhivan University located in Pulchock to host the event and support the construction of accessible spaces within the premises of the Faculty, helping creating a disable friendly infrastructure.

With this noble goal, the Council once again asked team J.W.S.C to audit the design of the new inclusive spaces, an accessible pathway through the garden with a brand new ramp and another ramp that leads to one of the buildings of the Faculty.

Vaishali Pradhan, a Programmes Manager at the British Council Nepal and one of the steadfast supporters of the Council’s embrace of disability rights affirms that ““Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) are at the heart of our cultural relations work. We aim to increase the diversity of people, in particular disabled people, who have opportunities to work with us; to participate in our programmes and projects; and take up our services”

Partnerships for social inclusion are an imperative for Nepal. The British Council by partnering with J.W.S.C is showing what can be done in very practical ways if there is determination and commitment for the rights of persons with disabilities.

Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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