Tuesday, 31 January 2012

HIV & AIDS among the deaf population in Sub-Saharan Africa

It has been more than 2years since I covered the above topic in my Master's thesis at UCL. And not much appear to have changed (for the better) on ground for the deaf particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.  Although I only covered three Southern African countries in more detail than others: Mozambique, South Africa and Namibia, I have seen that the situation in most African countries are similar to Mozambique in terms of governmental failure to include disability in HIV issues. South Africa is on the forefront as its government has pro-actively included PWD their HIV/AIDS policy. Whilst the HIV policy in Namibia has accorded some recognition to PWD as a vulnerable population, this same recognition is not shared among the healthcare providers.

It's just not right.

PWDs are not asexual beings and neither does HIV discriminate nor does it hide or run away from PWDs. I have had enough of interactive sessions on HIV and reproductive health with deaf people to know that the fight against HIV is seriously lacking in punching power. As long as PWDs particularly the deaf and the hearing-impaired are excluded from mainstream prevention and care programmes or don't have adaptations done in HIV outreach effort, we all would have to put up with the cumbersome and utterly miserable presence of HIV in our society for much longer.

A lot of people ask me why I focus a lot on literacy among the deaf. One simple reason: they are placed at a worse disadvantage than any other specific group in any society around the world. According to Prof. Groce in 2004, the global literacy rate among PWD is about 3%. The rate falls lower to about 1% among deaf women. This is pathetic and augers really badly for any effort to bridge the gender equality gap. In the African society, certain socio-cultural factors like gender inequality influence attitude and behavior related to HIV/AIDS.
Much needs to be done to positively re-shape cultural norms like gender relations/roles that put deaf women at risk.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Interview at AIT- Part2

I gave in when I got more 'compelling' texts the next morning (Tuesday 10th) and ended up going to the television station with an affable man, Chike who has a mobility challenge and a visually-impaired man. I received a copy of the statement written by the president of the umbrella association for Persons with Disabilities in NGR. It was a good statement but I had an issue with the 'stipend' bit which to me, tended to project that the association would be willing to accept the 'stipend' and nothing else, should in case the government goes ahead with its insensitive, anti-people policy on the fuel subsidy removal issue.

We had an opportunity to meet two very visible high-ranking government officials who are the President's spokespeople on this controversial policy: CBN(Central Bank of NGR) Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who were at the station for a live discussion. They seemed pleasant to us when we introduced ourselves. I give some credit to both. Why? Because Dr. Okonjo-Iweala acknowledged the oversight and apologised when she was confronted about the fact that no PWD was consulted before they decided firmly on that policy. And she acknowledged that PWDs can be productive with the assistance of the government. She was reminded that the President has not signed the Disability Bill. On his part, the CBN governor informed us about the new employment policy for PWDs that CBN had just introduced at the beginning of the year. He explained that apart from trying to get more PWDs working in areas relevant to CBN, he has mandated that at least 1bank branch in each major location is physically-accessible (I took it up with his aide afterwards that they have to do something for those with hearing impairments and I insisted that they have staff who is trained in Sign Language. **shrug** If I/we don't demand, I/we don't get!! I was invited for a roundtable at the CBN headquarters as a representive of the deaf/hard-of-hearing).

They both went away with a copy of the statement which I received that morning. The big problems which I had with them was that at the time we interacted, they failed to understand that the three well-spoken and educated people with disabilities are only spokespeople for the majority who are far less-privileged. We tried to make them realise that but sorry to say, think they are still disconnected from the reality on ground.

As we all know now, the government made a unilateral decision to 'slightly' reduce the pump price from N141 to N97. The debates on everything pertaining to fuel subsidy removal (from the timing, effects on the masses to lack of transparency and corruption particlarly in the petroleum industry) are hot and raging.

The corruption in NGR is so prevalent and extremely poor governance is having detrimental effects on PWDs. I'll be concentrating on how PWDs can turn the tide by taking their civic responsibilities seriously. From events that unfolded last week ie the near total shutdown of services around NGR during the week-long strike has lent credence to the fact that the masses DO have a voice.

I stop for now with apologies for not submitting my blog entries regularly this year. And apologies for not posting a video of the said discussion with the CBN governor and the Finance Minister. I will try to retrieve a copy from AIT.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Interview with AIT (African Independent Television)

Antescript: I had previously submitted the below entry last Monday but had to retract it the next day because I ended up going for the interview which I'll discuss on Part2.

In view of the recent and extremely popular government policy called 'Fuel Subsidy Removal', I was asked if I could talk about the effects of FSR aka Fuel Subsidy Removal on PWD.

I had to decline for the major reason that the lives of PWD have been sub- 'everything good' whether there has been a FSR or not. It goes far,far beyond fuel subsidy. I know that I have disappointed some people by not turning up but I need to be true and thorough. Anyhow, I hope for another opportunity soon.

For those outside NGR and not up-to-date with what's going on on ground, let me be simple and straight to the point. On New Year's Day, the president gifted his people with an over 100% price hike in the fuel price. With absolutely no warning whatsoever and no prior palliative measures. With the new fuel price, everything -goods and services- double in price. And in a country where 90% live on less than $2 per day. We all know that PWD are the poorest of the poor.

We had some strikes in various parts of the country which meant that the country was/is at a standstill. Some of the people I spoke with told me that they afford to take a few days off; because they needed to work to stay alive. A depressing enough thought.
Earlier in the evening as I tried to catch up on the #OccupyNigeria updates both on facebook and independent tv media, I saw a mobility-challenged man frantically moving his crutches. I said a quick prayer that he and everybody who chose to participate in the movement would keep safe. The police force is known to be trigger-happy. But if any inadvertent event should happen to any PWD during the protest or strike action, I would not hesitate to push for the perpetrators to be arrested.

I end this blog post by recognising the young people who died today and in the first few days of the year whilst standing (and walking) for their rights. May their death not be in vain.

Friday, 6 January 2012

60 hearing-aid batteries....

...which I kept in the fridge for the past few months, were 'mistakenly' thrown away by a mindless , foggy-minded person. And yes, I am ranting here of which I now realise is my first post of the year-2012. I have made a mess of a few telephone and for some reason, face-to-face conversations.

Recently, I notice that some so-called educated people get cross that I don't pick up my telephone to call them. Hello!! I'd like to switch on the bulb in your brain- there is a legitimate and perfect reason why I do not eagerly do that. I just cannot hear you as well as you can hear me. I am probably going to extend this to 'normal' conversations and simply say 'I don't want to talk to you because I cannot hear you.'  I am tired of having to walk 9th /10 way of the conversation; working hard to ensure verbal and non-verbal communication flows well with 1/10 input from the other person.

I refuse to let it grow into a big issue.  I now choose to be elastic with the way I communicate with some people- REALLY ELASTIC!

Oh why did s/he throw away the whole box?! Best believe, I am peeved!

On another note, the whole protest going on in NGR- Occupy NGR is gathering momentum. Please think,pray for and remember us who are hoping for the government reversal on a very unpopular policy.

And here is to hoping that 2012 will be a better year than last year for all of us!