Speaking to Devika Malik, there is only one word that comes to mind, inspirational.
Recently appointed to the position of focal point for people with disabilities of the standing committee of the Office of Special Interest Groups, Devika Malik was born a female with disability in India and this has enabled her to have a sensitised world view. She had a case of congenital hemiplegia (partial paralysis and weakness in left arm & left leg) and her mother a paraplegic for the last 17 years; and being raised in a family of Army Officers, these factors sensitized her towards the cause of inclusive society & peace since a young age.
She recounts her greatest achievements to us and it goes without saying that disability is NOT inability:
“I am an International Para-athlete with 3 medals at the IPC World Athletics Grand Prix and Psychological Counsellor with a Masters in Psychology from Delhi University. Combining my passion for inclusive sport development & Peace, I am an active contributor to the Olympic Truce Peace Campaign as well as an alumnus of the Youth Leadership Program conducted by the United Nations Office of Sport for Development & Peace (UNOSDP) in Tokyo. On International Youth Day 2014, I addressed a national conference organized by PHD Chambers of Commerce, expounding strategies for Inclusive sport development.”
This was not where it stopped but she decided to start her own organisation:
“My mother and I started our NGO, Wheeling Happiness ( https://www.facebook.com/wheelinghappiness/) in July 2014, and one of our main strategies is to utilize sports for social development & emotional well-being of people with disabilities. I also provide free counselling services to physically challenged persons from underprivileged backgrounds. The foundation has conducted programs to promote an inclusive society, such as, construction of ramps at railway stations, sensitizing road commuters to follow traffic rules keeping visually and physically impaired pedestrians in view, sponsoring slum children to experience adventure sports and raising funds for artificial limbs for underprivileged users etc. As the co-founder, I have also represented the foundation at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) Malta, Youth Forum. “
Her most recent recognition came from Her Majesty The Queen as she was awarded the Queen’s Young Leader 2015 medal at Buckingham Palace and as a QYL her work did not stop there. She tells us of her other commitments to youth engagement and sports:
“My interview has also featured in the Queen’s 90th Birthday documentary – ‘Our Queen At Ninety’. I was invited to share my volunteer work experiences with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at British High Commissioner’s residence in Delhi. On 12th April 2016, the PM Narendra Modi hosted a luncheon, where the PM invited me to acknowledge my efforts towards inclusion & wellbeing of persons with disabilities. I’m an Asian Representative of the Commonwealth Youth Sport for Development & Peace (CYSDP) Working Group, consisting of a total of 12 individuals selected from all 53 Commonwealth Nations. I also undertake counselling for caregivers of people with disabilities and cancer patients. I am a firm believer of equality across the gender spectrum and advocate for the feminist movement, as the stereotypes patriarchy imposes are equally harmful and constraining for both men & women.
Young Devika continues to advocate for inclusive societies and had the privilege to deliver a TEDx Talk and also gave a talk at the Commonwealth Secretariat HQ in London. Her work embodies SDG 10 – Equal Opportunities, and she is an advocate of the Accessible India Campaign.