Suzanne Lagan: How we’ve been working to make International Week of the Deaf bigger than ever

Posted on September 22, 2015

International Week of the Deaf takes place from 21st – 27th September when organisations all over the world will be joining forces to raise awareness and stand up for the rights of deaf people.

Deaf Child Worldwide, the international arm of the National Deaf Children’s Society, has been working closely with organisations globally in a bid to make this the biggest awareness week to date. An array of activities and events planned throughout the week will raise the visibility of deaf people in some of the world’s poorest communities providing an opportunity to challenge stigma, bring people together and lobby for long-term change for deaf people around the world.

In many of these communities, deaf children are hidden away and seen as a curse. Swaraswati Hansda, mother of 22 year old deaf Pratima in India’s West Bengal recalls, “The community used to refuse to speak to us. They said we were sinners because we had a deaf child.”

Through the support of Deaf Child Worldwide partner, the Graham Bell Centre for the Deaf (GBCD), Pratima and her family have gradually become part of their community. They encouraged Pratima to train as a beautician and she now enjoys interacting with the neighbours, “I am part of the community. I’m proud to be earning a living and able to support my family”, she says.

Learning that your child is deaf can be extremely isolating and parent groups provide a space to come together to share experiences and work together to secure the rights of their deaf children.

In Latin America, parent groups across four countries (Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia) formed a regional parents group, realising that together they would make a bigger impact on the lives of their children. To coincide with International Week of the Deaf they are launching their campaign: Right to Communication for Deaf and Deafblind Children.

Marlen, President of the Regional Parents group told us: “We are really excited to be launching this campaign during deaf awareness week. We will be going out to communities visiting schools, hospitals and police stations throughout the week distributing posters and information to raise awareness and highlight how we can work together to support the inclusion of deaf children in our communities.”

Many deaf children and young people in developing countries don’t have access to basic rights such as education. Rallies and lobbying events are organised around the world this week to bring these issues to the attention of local and national governments.

A number of MP’s from the UK will be visiting a deaf unit in a primary school in Nairobi’s slum areas which should make for an interesting and informative visit. They will be able to witness the challenges and learn about the support needed for deaf children and young people so that they can access the education they deserve.

You can keep up to date with some of the week’s activities through NDCS’ social media channels including the newly launched Instagram with #IWD2015 #DeafchildWW.

You can find out more about International Week of the Deaf on:

Suzanne Lagan is the Publications and Communications Manager at Deaf Child Worldwide (DCW), the international arm of the National Deaf Children’s Society.

Suzanne works closely with partners in South Asia, East Africa and Latin America to share project updates and case studies that highlight the challenges facing deaf children, young people and their families in some of the world’s poorest communities.

In addition, Suzanne develops learning materials and resources aimed at supporting deaf children, young people and their families around the world.

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