Blog post by: Dr. Shweta Verma*
How many parents in India would buy their children a disabled doll?, ask C.K.Meena & V.R. Ferose in their latest book: The Invisible Majority, India’s Abled Disabled . Calling Ginny “a radical idea that perhaps ahead of its time in our disabled-unfriendly country”, Meena & Ferose (2021, p. 291) write about Ginny and her planet, where nobody is the odd one out and where diversity is the norm. Have you met Ginny yet? or visited her planet?
Who is Ginny and why did she emerge?
Ginny is a 4 year old girl, who loves football and rain! She was born with a condition- radial club hand. Her right arm is shorter than her left arm. If you count her fingers on both hands, you will know that they are total 9. She wears spectacles to see the world better. Ginny doll is one of the easiest and quickest ways to trigger conversations on diversity, disability and empathy. While the idea of creating a social enterprise- Ginny’s Planet was born out of the co-founders’ personal mission to create a diversity respecting world, Ginny as a doll and character emerged when I interviewed children and parents. Through the insights that I gained, it was clear that we needed more than one strategy to build a better world, a world which belongs to everyone! Somak Ghoshal ( 27 June 2020) aptly wrote in his article about our strategy just when Ginny’s Planet was turning 1 year old: “..To achieve this effectively, they needed a tool, one that would, through nuanced messaging, make children understand the reality of living with difference and disability. They found their answer in a doll they named Ginny—a little girl made of cloth, with two plaits, thick glasses and a radial club hand..”
Ginny is not meant to be inspiring. She is meant to be an ordinary child having fun, making mistakes, learning with diverse experience, and bonding with friends who are a bit like and a bit unlike her.
Why should you bring Ginny- a doll with disability home?
Ginny Doll and workshops on empathy, diversity, and disability bring in nuanced understanding and acceptance of differences. When you bring Ginny home, you show your belief that it is okay to be different and that there are no perfections that each has to aspire for. When you choose Ginny doll, you challenge the taboo and discomfort around the term ‘disability’ itself. You show that it is okay to talk about people, disability, and several other aspects with each other.
Ginny doll, for many, becomes the beginning of conversation about disability and diversity. Being with a person with disability cannot be only about ‘helping’ and providing ‘services’. Anyone, including a person with disability, has several identities, aspects of life, aspirations, and relationships. Everyone has right to access opportunities, to forge paths, and to be seen along with but also beyond the aspect of impairment/disability. Hence, we all have to move beyond our assumptions and stereotypes if we have to build empathic connections and relationships.
Describing our approach, Tenzin Norzom (2021) quotes Ginny’s Planet in her article, “It is important to get to the mode of understanding people before you start saying things, offering help, or just assuming. That is the core of empathy we come up with in every workshop and conversation.”
Ginny’s world has stories, events, workshops, coloring books and more! This world is for children and for grownups! In 2019 when we started with Ginny doll and her stories, we realized the need to help others experience Ginny’s inclusive world. But in 2020, with the lockdown and COVID, this idea could be executed only in the online mode. Hence, remaining true to the essence of Ginny’s Planet, we celebrate A Day on Ginny’s Planet thrice a year!
To build a better world, each of us has to step forward!
Join this journey to build a world where nobody feels like an odd-one-out!
Arm yourself with knowledge, perspectives, and everyday actions on empathy, diversity, disability, and inquiry.
Be the trigger for change!
About Ginny’s Planet:
Ginny’s Planet is a social enterprise Co-founded by Dr. Shweta Verma in 2019. The brand runs on the core value of helping our teachers and parents to teach their children to become independent, smart and better leaders by equipping them with a deep understanding of empathy, diversity, disability and inclusion. Dr. Shweta and the team design events, workshops and products to help guardians & schools to develop kids’ mindset and evolve as adaptive and flexible human beings. They work with schools to organise workshops for children and teachers.
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- A Quick Guide to Teaching Empathy in Classrooms
- C.K. Meena, V.R. Ferose (2021).The Invisible Majority: India’s Abled Disabled. Hachette India
- Somak Ghoshal (June27 2020) . A doll that teaches diversity. MINT LOUNGE
- Tenzin Norzom ( July 12, 2021). How this couple is enabling empathy and diversity through dolls, stories, and workshops. YourStory.com
*Dr. Shweta Verma: CEO of Ginny’s Planet. She is a social work professional with experience in disability rights & mental health field. She conceptualised Ginny and is part of the team that evolves Ginny as a character. She has led several workshops with children and NGO workers on empathy.