Leave no deaf child behind

There are over 32 million deaf children worldwide and more than 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents with little or no experience of deafness or knowledge of how to communicate with a deaf person. Deaf children and young people face additional challenges such as late diagnosis, difficulties accessing quality education, and stigma and discrimination. The majority* of deaf children in low resource settings have little or no language when they start primary school.

We welcome the Global Disability Summit hosted by the Governments of the United Kingdom and Kenya, and civil society organisations, as an important opportunity to increase recognition and understanding of disability inclusion, throughout people’s lives, amongst decision-makers and the public.

We strongly believe that all deaf children and young people have the right to be involved in the decisions that affect them and consequently all our work and practice is rooted in ethical, high quality participation.

We believe it is essential to consult with deaf children and young people; they are the experts of their lives and should influence programmes that are designed for them. Considerable progress has been made in enabling older children and young people to participate in local and national decision making; however young children’s views are still largely absent in terms of influencing decisions.

 

We are sharing stories from deaf young people from different countries that has been involved in our project over the years and how they have overcome barriers and challenges.

 

 

Martha, deaf young person

There is a big problem around family planning, as many deaf people do not understand what it means. © NDCS

Martha, from Uganda, explained how deaf women are discriminated against in her local community: “It’s really hard for deaf women. Men see us differently, they see me as easy. Hearing people are not interested in marrying deaf girls; they just want to have sex with us.”

Martha added that there are problems with sexual health education in her hometown, Jinga: “There is a big problem around family planning, as many deaf people do not understand what it means. People in the community are given free condoms but they don't know how to use them. They are told about injections but they say 'I’ve had my immunisation so it's ok' because they don't realise it is a different type of injection. Teachers in schools do not use sign language to explain these things, so they can't help deaf people to understand.”


Asma, deaf role model from India

I thought it would be impossible for me to get a job because I am deaf. © NDCS

Over the past few months Asma has been supporting deaf children across India as a Deaf Role Model. Deaf Role Models share their personal experiences as a deaf young person and serve as positive role models for the deaf children and young people they work with. They help the families to identify practical solutions for navigating some of the common challenges that deaf children and young people face as they transition into adulthood.

Asma explained the change the role made to her life: “I thought it would be impossible for me to get a job because I am deaf.  But in the office I saw that there were plenty of deaf people communicating, reading and working.  That made me think that if others can work, so can I.”

After extensive Deaf Role Model training from Deaf Child Worldwide, Asma is looking forward to helping deaf children across the country. “Just as I got an education, I am now relishing the opportunity to help deaf children do the same. I cannot wait to see the deaf children grow up, study and work.

“Before I was scared of even going to a government office, or school. Now, I am more than happy to go to schools and speak with teachers and government officials. When I meet them now I inform them of the limitless potential of deaf children and I use myself as an example of what they can achieve. Often a sense of loneliness and a feeling of isolation can effect deaf young people. A Deaf Role Model is essential because we develop friendships with deaf children and help improve their mental wellbeing.” 

There are barriers to education that deaf children face in the classroom without support, Asma explained: “Previously the deaf children I worked with sat at the back of the classroom and were not able to communicate. I decided to go into the schools and provide training for the teachers. I would speak to them about what it means to be an inclusive classroom.” 

“After my work in the local schools, teachers are more deaf aware and help and support the deaf children in the class like never before. Deaf children are doing well in their exams for the first time because of our support.”


Watch Asma in action

Annet, sexual health trainer

Birds and the Bees appeal © DCW

Annet was provided training by Deaf Child Worldwide and now works sharing her expertise and knowledge. She supports deaf children with sexual health education. “We use role play and drama to share the message with people who don’t understand sign language. For example, how you contract HIV and how to use condoms. For people who have not been to school, this is a great way to learn”.


Innocent, peer educator

Innocent, a 25-year-old peer educator with Deaf Child Worldwide is working to raise awareness © DCW

Innocent, a 25-year-old peer educator with Deaf Child Worldwide’s Kampala Deaf Youth Group (support group for deaf young people), is working to raise awareness of sexually transmitted diseases and encourage deaf young people to get tested. “I always encourage people to get tested for HIV. People would ask: 'If I have a problem where can I go?' Previously they didn't care but now they ask for more and more information. ‘What hospital can I go to? Who can I talk to?’ When I talk to people about these things, they feel better as they know where to go to get support.”


Ajmira, deaf role model from India

Being a confident deaf person, I want to support other deaf children to feel the same. The training and support has changed my life © NDCS

Ajmira, has been a Deaf Role Model for 17 months after receiving training from Deaf Child Worldwide. Deaf Role Models share their personal experiences as a deaf young person and serve as positive role models for the deaf children and young people they work with. They help the families to identify practical solutions for navigating some of the common challenges that deaf children and young people face as they transition into adulthood. 

Working in the West Bengal region of India, an area with 315,192 deaf children, Ajmira described the importance of the support she received from Deaf Child Worldwide: “Before joining Deaf Child Worldwide, I had no idea how to support deaf children. I discovered how to teach, develop and empower deaf children. Being a confident deaf person, I want to support other deaf children to feel the same.  The training and support has changed my life.”

Ajmira’s time as a Deaf Role Model has not been without challenges but she has had great results, as she explained. “At first the deaf children I worked with were shy and quiet – lacking in confidence, most of the children did not want to study or answer any of my questions. I knew there was a problem and that I had to do something. Deaf Role Models are a hugely positive influence on deaf children. With our support and guidance deaf children can achieve just as much as their hearing peers.

“I visited them, supported them with their studies, answered questions, told stories and discussed different topics. I saw the children’s attitude and approach to life change dramatically. They were more confident and their sign language ability also improved. I was proud to see them communicating so well with other deaf children and young people.”


Watch Ajmira in action

Silvia, deaf young person

Birds and the Bees appeal © DCW

Silvia, from Jinga, described the barriers that stop deaf children and young people from receiving quality sexual health education: “Deaf girls are used sexually. They have no protection. They take big risks because no one has bothered to educate them. Even though we are sexually active, many of us are ignorant about HIV and AIDS.

“We do not feel comfortable speaking to our doctor due to the lack of communication. We go with parents to help, but we fear talking about these issues in front of them. It's hard to go with an interpreter because they want money, and even if you go with an interpreter you still don't understand. The nurse might say you're negative – but I don't know what that means. Does that mean I'm safe?"


Betty, deaf young person

Parents do not advise their deaf children about sexual health. Hearing people know about these things but we don't. © NDCS

Betty, 21, from Jinga, explained why deaf young people struggle with sexual health education more than their hearing peers: “Parents do not advise their deaf children about sexual health. Hearing people know about these things but we don't. Very few of us understand the details about sexual health. Some people go to hospital and get a blood test but most deaf people don't understand what the results mean. If I go with an interpreter it can be very hard; sometimes we don't want them to know why we are visiting the doctor. They are also too expensive for some people.”


*These figures are based on evidence from projects that Deaf Child Worldwide has supported with 21 partners in South Asia (India and Bangladesh) and East Africa (Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania)


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Deaf Child Worldwide works with partners in developing countries, facilitating work that enables deaf children and young people to be fully included in their family, education and community life.

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