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Nilofar Ansher


Global Business and Disability Network: I.L.O.’s New Initiative to Promote Employment of Disabled People in the Private Sector

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Over an year ago, the International Labour Organisation came out with the idea of creating a Global Business and Disability Network - a platform for multinational companies, employers’ organisations, N.G.O.s and disabled peoples’ organisations, etc.. The idea is to facilitate the employment of people with disabilities. It recently held its Asian meeting in Bengaluru on February 17. Hosted by Wipro at its Sarjapur campus, the meeting saw participation from several Indian and multinational companies. Several presentations on best practices by companies worldwide were also made. Dorodi Sharma of D.N.I.S. writes about the Network, the meeting and what it needs to change the scenario for people with disabilities in India vis-à-vis employment in the private sector.

Despite a lot of noises being made about employment of people with disabilities in the past several years, especially in the private sector, proportionate results have been elusive. To address a few of these issues, the International Labour Organisation (I.L.O.) is in the process of launching its Global Business and Disability Network - a voluntary group from business, industry and employers’ organisations and networks and selected non-governmental and disabled peoples’ organisations. The primary purpose of this Network will be to facilitate disability diversity in the workforce and to promote it from the perspective of business and human rights cases.

The idea is to bring out role models and create a platform for knowledge sharing by companies. The Network now has 31 companies and 11 employers’ organisations worldwide. It is currently organising meetings in various countries to promote the idea, garner support and chalk out strategies before the official launch.

It was about a year ago that I.L.O. contacted National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (N.C.P.E.D.P.) for guidance vis-à-vis India. N.C.P.E.D.P. put them in touch with a few role model corporates. One year from then, the Asian meeting was held in Bengaluru on February 17, in collaboration with Wipro. Wipro is one of the 3 Indian companies who are members of this Network, the other two being MphasiS and Tata Consultancy Services. Several role model stories from across the world were presented at the daylong event.

Fauzi Hassan, H.R. Director of Carrefour Malaysia Singapore, presented Carrefour’s story in employing people with disabilities. Carrefour currently has 10,500 employees with disabilities worldwide. But majority of these employees are in the European countries. In Malaysia, hiring is done through organisations working for disabled people, through Government bodies, through job fairs and through strategic hiring. For example, Carrefour’s C.S.R. Head in Malaysia is a wheelchair user. Hassan also shared the results of an in house survey done by Carrefour where 84 percent of the respondents were satisfied with the performance of disabled employees.

Telenor Pakistan made an interesting presentation via teleconference on their work vis-à-vis disability. Telenor has a programme on disability called ‘Khuddar’ and works on accessibility, awareness and inclusion. Telenor worked with a disability advisor for this programme. It also has a radio talk show on the issue. Besides this, Telenor supports assistive technology labs and is conducting audits of its premises and sponsoring various disabled peoples’ organisations.

There were also employers’ organisations from Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Australia which made presentations at the meeting. Of these, the Australian Network on Disability was the only employers’ organisation which was solely focused on disability. This Network provides consultancy to member companies on creating opportunities for people with disabilities, knowledge sharing, training, etc. for a substantial fee.

In India, organisations such as N.C.P.E.D.P. have been providing more or less the same guidance to companies on employment over the last decade but purely on a pro bono basis. Over the last decade, several other organisations have emerged which provide paid consultancy to corporates in India. The three leading ones are Diversity and Equal Opportunity Centre, Anubhuti H.R. and Enable India. However, an employers’ network solely on disability is still a distant dream in India. A gap that needs to be plugged.

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