From disability to empowerment and independence

Despite having speech impairment, a young woman has paved a path towards self-sufficiency and independence. Blazing a trail of inspiration for others to follow, 23-year-old Leki, through her tailoring shop is proving that disability is not a barrier to financial independence.

In a small, rented space in Thimphu’s Babesa, Leki Lhaden has been tailoring her way for the past seven months. Today, Leki employs three women, one of whom has a physical disability.

A three-day entrepreneurship programme in April by READ Bhutan, a non-profit organisation, helped Leki with basic entrepreneurial skills and financial management.

“Regardless of being disabled or illiterate, if you have the will to follow through, you can achieve anything. You should not step back because of your disability. Instead, understand the problem, accept it, and then only will others accept us as well.”

Leki says she understood from an early age that her disability might hinder her ability to work like others. However, Leki never gave up on her dream of running her own business and to achieve financial independence.

Understanding the challenges women face in sustaining themselves, Leki hired Passang Dema and Rinchen Wangmo. These women are single mothers working towards self-sufficiency.

“As a disabled person, we do face difficulties in life. What others can do; we are not able to achieve. But now that I can sustain myself, I am very proud of myself,” said Passang Dema, a tailor.

“In the beginning, I had difficulty having conversations with her due to her speech impairment. Most people face similar difficulties since they have not dealt with people with such disability. Her family also supports her,” said Rinchen Wangmo, a tailor.

READ Bhutan, is exploring opportunities to assist Leki’s entrepreneurial endeavours by enhancing her capabilities. Through Leki’s tailoring business, READ Bhutan wants to empower Leki and people with disabilities to embrace a self-reliant lifestyle.

Meanwhile, Leki says she is willing to employ people who have a physical disability and women who are financially struggling.

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