DR. Sruti Mohapatra
founder & Chief Executive of Swabhiman
Orissa , India
From spurning a career in the Indian Civil Services to becoming a leading crusader for disability rights, Dr. Sruti Mohapatra’s relentless struggle and never-say-die-attitude have been a source of inspiration for all those fighting odds to make it big in life. It was 1987 and she had everything going for her at the age of 23, but a major accident that turned her life upside down. After prolonged treatment she returned on a wheelchair, with her body paralysed from neck below for life. She lost her job and marriage but did not give up on life, supported by a brave family.
She let nothing stand in her way, the initial reluctance of university professors, humiliation of wetting her clothes on many occasions, being stared at, having to ask for help to all, and much more to get the MPhil and PhD degrees. Thereafter, she began to train civil services aspirants. By 2009, she had trained over 300 civil service aspirants now working in various positions in government, banks, and other services.
Amid the anger of rejection and humiliation, she joined DPI, started Swabhiman and started working towards empowering persons with disabilities and her efforts has resulted in many positive changes in Odisha and India including policy changes, increasing public awareness on the issue of disability and working towards accessible cities.
To initiate an inclusive platform for children with disabilities and those without, she started a project called Anjali. The festival has brought together around 40,000 children (disabled and non-disabled).
The crusader of disability rights is associated with many forums and is a member in various committees. She has won 69 awards. She also gives motivational speeches at various institutions and corporate houses.