Five minutes with… Georgina Chetwynd, Information Management Officer, India
Twenty eight year old Georgina Chetwynd is sharing her skills in Kolkata. Here Georgina – who has also volunteered with VSO in Pakistan – describes the challenges faced by disabled women in India and explains how, by telling their stories, she is helping to tackle some of those challenges.
What does your job involve?
I’m working with the Association for Women with Disabilities (AWWD) field staff to develop systems to get information so that we can use it in reports for the donors. I’ve also been doing communications work, getting case studies from the field and using those to promote AWWD’s work and show the challenges disabled women face.
Can you describe some of those challenges?
Dealing with impairments like not being able to see or not being able to walk is difficult enough in any case, but these women have to deal with them while living in a slum or a remote rural area. So they don’t have running water, they don’t have toilets, they don’t have a kitchen, the streets are unpaved, there are open drains. Not only do they have to deal with their impairment in those circumstances, they also have to confront stigma.
What does that stigma look like?
Disabled women are often harassed or abused the street. Many are too afraid to come out of the houses, so they’re isolated for their whole lives. It’s profoundly shocking.
Is your work going to help address that?
I really hope so. I’m developing a booklet of disabled women’s stories that will help AWWD promote their work and challenge stereotypes. It’ll show the extent of the challenges faced by disabled women in the slums and in the rural areas and also show that disabled women are capable of achieving just as much as anyone else in Indian society.
What do you think of VSO’s way of working?
I really like the emphasis on sharing skills. My experience in India and Pakistan is that the NGOs are very professional in their project activities but because they are focusing on those, they often don’t have the professional expertise in organisational development. So I think volunteers can bring an awful lot in terms of building the organisation’s capacity.
What will you do when you return to the UK?
I’m going back to do a Masters in social work. Working in Pakistan and India has made me realise that I want to work directly with vulnerable groups. It has given me so many skills for working with different cultural groups, and I’d like to work with refugees and asylum seekers back in the UK.
So do you think volunteering has been good for your CV?
It has been such good experience in terms of broadening my skills, being able to do a wide variety of work from developing communications to proposal writing to report writing.
Tell us what you’d say to someone thinking about volunteering with VSO.
I’d say definitely go for it. It’s a life changing experience – you’ll shock yourself at how much how you can cope with and what you can achieve.