Kanchana wants to open the door for women through sports

Kanchana Pradeepa de Silva is chair of the Sri Lanka Foundation for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled, SLFRD. She especially struggles to reach out to girls and women with disabilities, who in many cases live in isolation from the rest of society.

Kanchana har en mörkröd sari på sig, hon har axellångt svart hår, bilden är tagen snett framifrån och Kanacha tittar in i kameran
Kanchana Pradeepa de Silva

As a young man, Kanchana saw his disability as a punishment for sins that made life worth living. Today, she instead lives an independent and active life with a good job where she can take her own car to the training sessions at the athletics arena.

Thanks to sports, Kanchana has been able to do things that were not even on the map when she was young and grew up in the Sri Lankan countryside. As a national team player in seated volleyball, she has had the chance to travel to Italy, Korea, India and China and represent her country.

"Being able to travel abroad as a person with a disability was something I could not even dream of before," she says.

Unfortunately, girls with disabilities who want to do sports encounter many obstacles. Kanchana emphasizes how important it is that even these girls get the chance to exercise and meet friends. This is especially important in a country like Sri Lanka, where many girls and women with disabilities are more or less locked up in the homes of their families. It creates isolation from the rest of society, which also risks leading to more health problems.

 -It is much more common for girls with disabilities to be kept hidden in homes compared to boys with disabilities. Many parents do not want their daughters to go public. Some are ashamed, while others are worried that their daughters will experience something, says Kanchana.

Kanchana wants to break the isolation and change attitudes in the countryside

Through its work in SLFRD, Kanchana above all wants to reach out with information that can lead to changes in attitudes in rural areas. It is mainly about breaking the isolation that so many people with disabilities end up in. Outward-looking activities such as playing sports with others can play a crucial role, she says.

-Girls with disabilities run a particularly high risk of being abused as rapes, something they then keep quiet about to the outside world. If you start with an activity, you get new contacts, and then it becomes easier to talk about such things with others and get the support needed to dare to report to the police, says Kanchana.

Kanacha kastar spjut på idrottsplats
Kanchana believes that sport can play a crucial role in breaking isolation

"The whole society looks down on people with disabilities and it has created a great deal of suffering in my life"

Kanchana has been paralyzed in the right leg since birth and had much more difficulty walking well into adulthood than she has today.

It was thanks to sports that she came in contact with others who told her that there was help available. Two people contacted Kanchana during a training session and told her where she could get the right help. This led to Kanchana receiving support rails.

-When I got the rails it became much easier to walk, before I had to hurry forward. It is an example of how important it is to get out into society, that is how we can get the knowledge we need. That is why I so want to help others have a better life, by giving them access to the information they need, says Kanchana.

Kanchana says she lives a very good life today. She lives at home with her parents, but thanks to her work, she is not financially dependent on them in the way that so many other people with disabilities are. When she was young, she did not see life as brightly at all.

-Then I often cried because of my disability. I did not want to live anymore. The whole society looks down on people with disabilities and it has created a great deal of suffering in my life. As a young person, I thought it was some kind of sin that was behind my disability.

Thanks to the support of the family, Kanchana was able to finish primary school and also study all the way up to the university. Today, she works with social insurance issues at the country's Ministry of Finance.

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