One of the greatest pleasures for my three year old niece is swinging and sliding in the public parks. She absolutely loves it, and she can spend hours in the park without getting bored. Playing and visits to public park form an essential part of growing up in India. Each one of us has had great childhood memories and experiences to share about our exploits in public parks during holidays and after school with many of our friends. But do we ever sit back and wonder that the things that we take for granted so easily might not be so for whole lot of people? UNICEF estimates that 6-10% of children in India are born with some form of disability. But if you visit any public park you hardly see any such children. And then when you sit to think about it you will realize that simple things like swinging on swings, or sliding on slides, or sitting on see saws are extremely difficult for most of these kids suffering from physical disabilities. Most of these kids are devoid of a childhood that they deserve.
These were the reasons which prompted Kavita to start an initiative called Kilikili. Kilikili has stayed true to its taglines, "Right to Inclusive Play", and "Breaking barriers through play." They have been working towards making public spaces, specifically parks, more accessible and useful for special children. They have started by converting one of the public parks in Bangalore to a model park which would be more disabled-friendly. All the play equipment has been slightly modified keeping in mind the needs of the disabled children.
The swing, the way as you see in the picture, is called "the bucket" and gives support to children that do not have upper body support. The slides have raised sides that can help children who are fearful of heights. The seesaw also has the bucket type of seat to enable children who are disabled to use it. These simple modifications to the design of this equipment, not only makes a world of difference to these special children, but also adds to the fun for normal children.
One thing that I admire about Kilikili as an initiative is that instead of developing their own private space, which would have had restricted access, they are trying to convert public parks, which are accessible to hundreds of children. Also, unlike most NGO's who normally function individually and detached from the local government, Kilikili believes in symbiotic relationships. "If you want to make something sustainable and scalable, government has to be involved. There are hundreds of parks in Bangalore, and any one NGO cannot take care of all of them. Going ahead we want BMP (Bangalore municipal corporation) to install the equipment in all the parks and we want to involve local community to take care of maintaining it", says Kavita who is one of the persons behind Kilikili. "Top officials at BMP have been very supportive and have taken the responsibility to implement this" she adds. This goes to show that a lot can be achieved by NGO government partnerships. Government possibly can't do everything, but with NGOs providing useful consultation, things can be made more effective.
As Kavita says, Kilikili is not an NGO, it is movement. It is movement towards making people aware about disabilities and also encouraging other NGOs and communities to take up this model and modify the parks in their neighborhood to make it more disabled-friendly.