Diethono Nakhro was awarded the 'A Kevichusa Citizenship Award' at RCEMPA on Monday Credit: EastMojo Image

Kohima: Disability rights activist and state commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (PwD) Diethono Nakhro was awarded with the ‘A Kevichusa Citizenship Award’ for 2020 on Monday during a ceremony at RCEMPA, Jotsoma.

The first disability self-advocate from the state, Nakhro was awarded for her commitment to the disability cause, being at the forefront of the Nagaland disability rights movement for over ten years and advocating full inclusion and participation of PwDs in every aspect.

The ‘A Kevichusa Citizenship Award’ (KCA) was instituted in 2017 by the Kevichusa foundation to recognise indigenous individual or group that has consistently championed, demonstrated and embodied the ideal of citizenship and sought the common good of the people. The Kevichusa Foundation is a charitable foundation of the family of Angami Kevichusa.

The annual award is named after Angami Kevichusa, a former parliamentarian, first Naga graduate and the first Naga IAS officer. A Kevichusa was also a recipient of the Most Excellent Order of the British Army (MBE), and the first chairman of the first regional party—Democratic Party of Nagaland (now called the Naga People’s Front).

Introducing the recipient of the award, Dr Mimi Kevichusa Ezung, a family member of A Kevichusa, lauded Nakhro for using “personal experiences to motivate the youth to step up and become agents of change in the society”. She said that Nakhro has shown that “disability is only a layer, and that layer when peeled off, unveils the inimitable jewel inside, in its range and depth”.

Ezung added “Within a short period since her appointment [as disability commissioner], her relentless campaign has sealed the 4% reservation for disabled people in jobs. She has a herculean task ahead of her to lead the fight for the rights of the most marginalized”.

Accepting the Award, Nakhro said “To even be considered as a worthy candidate [for the Award] is a privilege and it is with humility and gratitude that I accept this award instituted in the name of a great Naga citizen”. Nakhro recalled how “things fell apart” for her in 2006 when she met with a car accident and injured her spinal cord.

“The accident was life changing; the consequences beyond devastating at that time, but it could not have been any different…It was the necessary fire that gave me a new direction and purpose,” she said.

Disability rights activist Diethono Nakhro receiving the award

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Nakhro expressed her discontentment over the fear of using the word disability or disabled, especially by people outside the community, perceiving it to be something “bad”. “Disability is not a dirty word. Making the word pretty does not make the situation better for people living with disabilities” she said further adding that it “increase stigma against them by implying that the word itself is inherently bad”.

She also highlighted that most people with disabilities are more likely to face poverty than people without disabilities due to discrimination, limited access to education and employment and lack of inclusion in livelihood and other social programme. However, according to her, women with disabilities face double the discrimination and difficulties because of their gender, and the obstacles they encounter because of their disability.

“This is why we fight… We fight for inclusion and equal opportunities. We fight for social justice for all disabled people,” she said. While a lot of “good changes” have been happening in the recent times with better disability awareness, accessibility, inclusive education including the positive changes in attitudes and the government’s receptive and proactive approach, she added saying “So much more needs to be done for Nagaland to become truly inclusive and enabling”.

During the Award ceremony, president of the Kevichusa foundation, Kethoser Kevichusa said that the award is not just for “great” but for anyone doing something consistently for the people. He informed that recipients of the Award are given a cash amount of Rs 3 lakh along with citation and medallion.

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