Shilpa Jain has previously held several higher positions. Besides, she co-founded the dJED Foundation (non-profit foundation) with her husband, Dilip Jain
Inspiring Stories

From Polio Paralysis To Powerhouse: The Remarkable Journey Of Shilpa Mehta Jain

Shilpa Mehta Jain was diagnosed with Polio when she was two months old, and grew up with 94 per cent post-polio syndrome

Written By: | Edited By: | February 20, 2024 हिन्दी में पढ़े

New Delhi: “The image of a person with disability living a life without prejudice is rare,” says Shilpa Mehta Jain, a chartered accountant from Mumbai. As a person with disability, Ms Jain has been subjected to ugly forms of discrimination. From being called a langadi, disabled, or bechari, she has seen and heard it all. The 44-year-old was diagnosed with scoliosis (Polio) when she was two months old, and she grew up with 94 per cent post-polio syndrome, which affected her right limb.

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A Deputy Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Nickel at Vedanta, Ms Jain had to face societal pressure more than the family’s. Recalling her formative years, Ms Jain said,

I come from conservative Marwari society. So, girls education was not prioritised. A girl like me, who had polio, had no chance to achieve anything in life. People used to tell my parents outright that I would be a bojh (burden) to. My parents were told that they may require a lot of money to get me married because no ‘normal’ person would agree to marry me because of my disability. Living such a mindset for the whole of childhood was not easy.

In school, Ms Jain did not let her physical obstacles stand in her way of achieving laurels. She participated in multiple mental skill competitions, from quiz to declamation competitions, and won accolades.

The Hurdles Faced To Make A Name In The Corporate Sector

Ms Jain pursued Chartered Accountancy in 2001 from The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), and cleared all three levels of CA in first attempt. Like other students, Ms Jain was also looking forward to opting for a CA articleship (practical training programme) to gain experience, but she was rejected by several firms despite having a good academic background. At the end, she received an articleship after her father, Shantilal Mehta, a businessman, put in a word for enrollment.

Ms Jain further pursued a Masters in Management Studies (MMS) in 2004 and a Master of Commerce (M.Com) in 2005. After completing the course, she decided to sit for campus interviews, but it was a hard nut to crack.

I was the most qualified student in my batch, but I was placed at the fifth last rank in my course. On Day 1 of the placements, most of the companies did not interview me, and the ones that did finished the interview within one minute. At the end of the day, the placement committee tried to convince me to join my father’s business and then search for a job. I just couldn’t fathom the fact that I was being rejected due to my disability.

This was one of the lowest points of Ms Jain’s life. Her belief in changing the course of her life through education was shaken. But she held it strong and continued to work hard to build a life of dignity, one brick at a time.

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Professional Successions And Accolades

Ms Jain has previously held several leadership positions. Besides, she co-founded the dJED Foundation (non-profit foundation) with her husband, Dilip Jain. The organisation works towards educating the rural and tribal population of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan about entrepreneurship and environment.

In 2019, she was bestowed with the Nari Shakti Award for beating the odds in her life. In January, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) honoured Ms Jain for her professional achievements. She pledged to financially support 100 people with disabilities to pursue their CA.

Looking back at her journey, Ms Jain said,

The outlook of society is such that the moment the word disability comes to their mind, they think that we are in need of sympathy and that we aren’t capable of having a successful professional life. They are unable to see PwDs as equal and lead their lives as everyone else. We need to realise that this is a fundamental issue. Disability matlab daya karo, sympathy karo, but opportunity mat do.

The 44-year-old said that there are millions of people like her in India who yearn for one chance to become financially independent and live a dignified life. Ms Jain’s agenda is to help people with disabilities, inspire and motivate them to become self-reliant.

Watch: Inclusive Education For Students With Disabilities

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