Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Today's event at the Nigerian IWD 2012

The opening ceremony took place in the same place it was held last year- the National Human Rights Commission. Again like yesterday, the event was not very well-attended. Some dignitaries who attended included the representatives from the Ministeries of Women Affairs and Social Development, Education and the Federal Capital Territory. The Ambassador of Netherlands to Nigeria, Mr. Bert Ronhaar, his wife Mrs. Hanneke Ronhaar and Mrs. Madeleine Collie were very gracious to attend the ceremony to lend their support. I finally got to meet the National President of the Deaf Women Association of Nigeria; popularly and fondly known as 'Mama Deaf'. The amiable,young Senior Special Adviser to the Adamawa State Governor on Disability Matters, Umar Tukur also attended.

There was a slight change to the slogan which is now ' Nothing about the Deaf without the Deaf FULLY INVOLVED'.  That gives a better twist to show that deaf people should be inclusive and proactively in the forefront of everything that affects them- not sitting like ducks on the ground to be swept in any direction that the water takes us to. The messages in the speeches given by speakers were mostly optimistic. That means only one thing- the Deaf are not going to give up! For all that is worth, the hearing community should be happy to encourage the deaf community to achieve its goal to function as valuable members of the society.

Who says dramas are not interesting? By this, I mean a silent performance by the Silent Afro Mime Theatre. The theme was about a young deaf girl whose father ,out of ignorance, took her to the imam, 'white garment' prophet and a 'babalawo' ( a traditional mystic) in efforts to find a solution to her 'deafness'. One of them even suggested to the father that the girl is a witch and turns into a bird. Oh, do not let me get started on the emotional abuses (and physical, verbal abuses) that deaf people particularly children go through in the hands of family members who perceive deafness as 'abnormal'. The drama cuts to a scene in which the girl's mother who upon discovering that her husband took their daughter to these so-called mystics was very angry. A fight almost ensued but is cut short by a neighbor who chastises the husband for his actions and who admonishes him that the girl could well be better than him when she grows up. Another scene shows the cheerful girl who has started attending school and eager to show her mother and that neighbor all that she learnt in school. After much persuasion from her mother and the neighbor, she shows her new signing skills/ socabulary to her father who has been 'commanded' to learn sign language in order to communicate with her.

I managed to take some photos of the silent mime and I will upload them soon.

Monday, 15 October 2012

International Week of the Deaf

As mentioned last week, commemoration of the International Week of the Deaf took place in Abuja, Nigeria.

The main event: press conference and rally took place today. The turn-out was disappointingly low this year. One of the main reasons was the fuel scarcity that hampered a lot of people's ease of movement. Apparently, a lot of people faced hardship and that seems to have affected attendance this year. The attitude was not as buzzing last year but with members of the Deaf Community coming together, there's an atmosphere of delight in seeing each other again. I saw delegates and attendees from places as far as Lagos, Zamfara and Yola.

This year's theme is 'Sign Bilingualism and Empowerment are Human Rights of the Deaf'. Here, we are encouraging the use of Sign Language as a language in its own right and as the first mother tongue for the Deaf. Although Nigeria has been a signatory to Article 24 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities, nothing practical has been done on ground.

Human rights of the Deaf has not been given any legal backing as the Disability Bill has not been signed into law (yet). The theme was chosen to highlight the importance of/and appealing for the advocating for the rights of the deaf in the society especially in policy making.

The bane of the development of Persons With Disabilities in Nigeria is the use of JONAPWD by development agencies. The leadership structure in that so-called organisation is very weak and non-representative of deaf people in particular.  It has been frustrating because deaf people has been left out of the deliberations and are not even consulted. Even more worrying is that even after the failed DFID projects which has not done anything to positively impact the lives of Persons Living With Disabilities, development agencies like USAID and UNDP do not consult with deaf people to find out how the projects can be inclusive and benefit the Deaf Community.

Corruption among the current leadership of JONAPWD who have deemed it not fit to give account of the millions of dollars in aid pumped in by development agencies have continued unabetted...

Join and support us in our advocacy on our rights to be fully involved!

Thursday, 11 October 2012

International Day of the Girl Child

Day of the Girl
Logo from the dayofthegirl.org website
Today the United Nations marked the first ever 'International Day of the Girl Child'.

The focus is to abolish child marriage by the year 2030 and to shore up support for educating the girl child. We know that the development of a family, community and country depends on the education and thus development of the woman who, in essence, should have been educated as a young girl. That is to say, educating a girl is a sure way of building a foundation for her family and thus her community.

It is an extremely laudable goal.  And I, for one, cannot help to think how this will impact the deaf girl in the short term. If it could take ages for a non-disabled girl to overcome such hurdles in this part of the world, who knows how long that would take for a deaf girl to do the same? Deaf adults still receive the rough end of the stick in the society today- not getting the basic education, for example and I can only imagine what it would mean to fight for the deaf girl to enjoy the same rights as the non-disabled girl.

Stories of non-disabled girls around the world abound and are heard everyday. Very few people get to hear the story of a deaf girl. I began a video documentary some months ago on a couple of deaf girls who were lured away from school and trafficked out of state. It is still ongoing and I hope to be able to tell their collective story.

Next week, the Nigerian National Association of the Deaf will mark the International Week of the Deaf which was actually earlier celebrated between 24th - 30th September this year in other countries. I hope to participate in a couple of activities next week and intend to share on this blog.

Until then...