Hope Blossoms for Hearing-impaired Women, Girls

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For some hearing impaired women and girls in Rivers State, a new lease of life was recently given to them by a civil society group to acquire adequate entrepreneurial skills. Blessing Ibunge reports that it also shed light on the challenges faced by these women and the danger of silence in the face of harm

As the society laments about the increasing economic challenge which has affected many lives, for people with disabilities, especially the hearing impaired, it is usually worse as they have to also battle marginalisation and attack by the society which is supposed to protect them. 

Disability could not have been caused by the people living with it, but some are born disabled while others may have been affected through health challenges after birth or accident as some have disclosed.

However, in disability there is evidence of ability as many have proven to be independent, engaged in responsible activities through which they fend for themselves and families. In as much as such kind of people exist, there are others, especially the blind and hearing impaired people who still experience challenge as the society may not understand their feelings, hence, they feel marginalised and segregated.

In another instance, blind and deaf women lament sexual violence, like rape by the men who may think no one will listen to them even when they report such incident.

Some of the hearing impaired women that spoke with THISDAY at an event to launch a free training on entrepreneurial skills for them in Port Harcourt, expressed that society does not care about what happens to them in terms of attack and other challenges.

To ameliorate this, D-Ability Initiative, a Civil Society group recently organised an entrepreneurial skills acquisition training for deaf women and girls in Rivers State. 
THISDAY learned that the training which will run for about six months, was initiated by the D-Ability Initiative, with support from the European Union, and Agents for Citizen-Driven Transformation and the British Council.

Uche Micah, a hearing impaired woman and participant at the training, regretted that the society does not have any special attention for deaf people.

Miss Micah who spoke through an interpreter, said although she has been in sports where she leads the deaf women in her wing, she cannot but thank the group for the opportunity to add to her skill for improved living.

Speaking with THISDAY, she said “I am here for the fashion training for single and married hearing impaired women.After the training I am expected to be self employed, saw cloths for people and earn some money. Presently, I am into sports and the engineer of Rivers State Deaf Association, women wing.

“I am very happy because this is the first time this kind of programme is coming specifically for the deaf women. I expect more of this training, I am very happy”.

When asked how the society relates with her knowing her state of ability, Micah expressed “Generally speaking, the environment does not have any concern for the deaf, even in our families, villages and the cities, no education, or other training benefit. That is why this empowerment programme is very good for us because it is designed for us who are deaf women.

“If not for my disability challenge, I would have like to be a government staff or any other business”, she expressed.
Also, a parent to one of the deaf beneficiaries, Mr Jimoh Salaudeen, commended the European Union, the Agents for Citizen-Driven Transformation, British Council and D-Ability Initiate, for the empowerment programme.

Salaudeen said: “Deaf people have been grossly marginalised. The government at all levels should intervene and see how they can improve their wellbeing.They need to be recognised in the society.

“We really need to involve the government to do something about the handicap because they have been marginalised for so long. We are not supposed to be struggling for them to be educated because not all the parents have the capacity to sponsor their children.

“Most girls were marginalised even those who can talk, people do not believe to send them to school, not to talk of those who cannot talk.”

Salaudeen appreciated the group for the initiative especially the European Union, and urged them to contribute to enhance the education of the deaf gurls and women, to improve their situation.

He disclosed “My first daughter had meningitis when she was about eight months old and now she is 26 years. So I have been able to do something to support her, to make sure at least we educate her. She is in her final year in the university as I speak to you and she is doing well.

“I communicate with my daughter through text massages because I do not understand the communication signs very well and she is doing very well”.

Another relative of the beneficiaries, Peace Sunabari, who came with her sister to the programme said “This programme will project the participants to be recorgnised in the society.

“Initially, it was very difficult to cope with my sister in terms of communication, but with time we started understanding each other, we understand her now even when we do not follow up with her sign language, she watch our lips and understand”.

 She also pleaded that “Government should support this programme because those with disabilities are really suffering. The deaf and dumb school we have in Port Harcourt here do not have boarding facility which affects those who may not afford the fund to be sending their children from rural communities down to Port Harcourt”. 

Meanwhile, the Executive Director of D-Ability Initiative, Dr Kingdom Nwanyanwu, who spoke during the flag-off ceremony, said the goal of the training was to improve the financial wellbeing of deaf women and girls in the state.

Nwanyanwu, explained that fashion and design, was chosen because it is a skill that allows the designer to show their creativity and also easy to start up.

Noting the challenges the deaf people face, especially the women as a result of their disability, Nwanyanwu said the training will equip them to competitively face the society without fear.

“People with disability are marginalised, but when it comes to the world of disabilities, the deaf are the most marginalised. They are the most vulnerable because they cannot express their situation. Secondly, being women and deaf makes them the most vulnerable because they face many forms of neglect. 

“So when we give them the entrepreneurial skills that will enhance and bring their creativity to bear, it will bring about their financial independence.”

He however, called on the government to support and partner the civil society to give a sense of belonging to people with disability. 

“After this training, we are going to set up a hub, where all of them are going to work. Imagine having a hub where all the fashion designers working there are all deaf people who are creating innovative fashion designs, so that is our target. We want them to put the training into use under our supervision, so that we will achieve the aim the training in order to train other people.”

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“People with disability are marginalised, but when it comes to the world of disabilities, the deaf are the most marginalised. They are the most vulnerable because they cannot express their situation. Secondly, being women and deaf makes them the most vulnerable”.