During the 16 Days of Activism 2022, people around the world united to raise awareness about gender-based violence, challenge discriminatory attitudes,
and call for improved laws and services to end violence against women for good. The theme for this year’s 16 Days of Activism 2022 was “UNITE! Activism to end violence against women and girls.” We went live to discuss the challenges faced by women with disabilities and why we must all rise to fight the menace.
Project Banner with project caption, Dr. Nwanyanwu, and Ebere
The 16 Days of Activism campaign calls for action against one of the world’s most persistent violations of human rights – violence against women. 16 Days of Activism affords all the opportunity to join in raising awareness of what needs to change to prevent violence against women and girls from happening in the first place at local, national, regional and international levels.
A cross-section of The Graduands and the Executive Director
Thirty Deaf women have graduated from six months of entrepreneurial skills training acquisition program initiated and implemented by D-Ability Initiative. This non-governmental organization provides support and empowerment for persons with special needs. This project was sponsored by the European Union (EU) through the British Council and Agents for Citizens-driven Transformation (ACT).
Speaking at the graduation ceremony in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, the Executive Director, Dr. Kingdom Nwanyanwu, stated that the program was part of their Organisation’s commitment towards capacity-building and improving the livelihood and financial well-being of such women and girls in Rivers. He explained the reasons for choosing to build the capacity of Deaf women at this time: “When it comes to the persons with disabilities, the Deaf are the most marginalized. If they are unskilled or uneducated, how can they measure up to the demands of society?”
The Executive Director addressing the graduands
Dr. Nwanyanwu hinted that the first batch of trainees comprised 30 Deaf women and girls, who are now gearing up to start their own businesses to enable them to earn a living, improve their financial well-being and cope with the current economic situation in the country. “We change their story by building their skills and earning capacity in the fashion industry. We are determined to create a world where persons with special needs are empowered, made competent and independent” said the Executive Director.
He also outlined the various positive impacts, the skill acquisition program would have on society. “When a woman with disabilities renders services and you patronize her, she will feel accepted and gains a sense of belonging. This will in turn make her a better person who creates value and receives a value. Earning money through their skills will stop them from begging which could open them up to rape and other vulnerabilities. Also when a woman has a source of income to support her partner, it reduces the incidences of domestic violence.”
One of the trainers, Ms. Queen Dakah, commended the organizers and charged the beneficiaries to remain focused and utilize the opportunity. She thanked Dr. Kingdom Nwanyanwu, the Founder and Executive Director of D-Ability Initiative for showing concern for Deaf women. She also appreciated the European Union (EU) through the British Council and Agents for Citizens-driven Transformation (ACT). Ms. Dakah called on the state government to borrow a leaf from the organization and create an enabling environment for PWDs in the state.
The graduands and other attendees
Mrs. Chi Oduagu, another trainer expressed satisfaction with the effort put in by the trainees in the course of the training, stating that they
progressed so rapidly beyond her expectations. She called on the general public to patronize them.
Dr. (Mrs.) Nte, a mother of one of the beneficiaries said: “This program has opened our eyes to see that our daughter can interact with people and can also learn fast. Because of the way she performed in this training, we have enrolled her in a University. I thank the organizers of this project. They have done so well. God bless them”.
Some of the beneficiaries, through an interpreter, expressed their appreciation for the training program.
Mrs. Tochi Ibe expressed appreciation for the opportunity given to them to have a meaningful life. “We are grateful to D-Ability Initiative and the European Union for helping us to gain skills in the fashion industry. We will use this knowledge to benefit ourselves. I say thank you”.
Mrs. Abigail Otobo thanked the organizers of the program for the training and for the opportunity to earn a living and live independently. She said: “this is the first time anyone remembered to carry out a project for us the Deaf women. We are very grateful to the D-Ability Initiative and to the European Union. I now have a skill. People have been telling me to make dresses for them. I need a sewing machine to do that. I am happy I can now make beautiful dresses.”
Jane Ottah, another beneficiary said: “I am grateful to Dr. Kingdom Nwanyanwu of D-Ability Initiative for thinking about us and helping us to get a skill. Thanks to European Union, British Council, and Agents for Citizen-Driven Transformation (ACT). I have made dresses for more than twenty clients. This training is already benefiting me and others. I will do more.”
Mrs. Divine Ivy John Said “I am now a fashion designer. Thank you, D-Ability Initiative. Thank you, European Union. Thank you, ACT and British Council”
Mrs. Marvis Igiri said: “The love shown to us is touching our hearts. This training has opened a way for us to have money to support ourselves and family. Thank you D-Ability Initiative and the European Union. We love you too. We need sewing machines so that we will not forget what we have learned.”
CALL TO ACTION
Dr. Nwanyanwu called for support from the Federal and State government, as well as kind-hearted individuals and organizations to partner withD-Ability Initiative in setting up a Skills Hub where the newly trained women would put their skills to use, and where more persons with disabilities would be trained. He made this appeal: “we have concluded the training program. However, the beneficiaries have nowhere to practice their skills. We are calling for help. We want to set up a skill training hub where all the trainees can work to support themselves and their families. We want to create something unique, something we all will be proud of. Do you care for the welfare of Deaf women and girls? We are calling on you to support us to set up a Skills Hub”.
D-Ability Initiative AND other selected European Union (EU) partner organizations in Rivers and Plateau States participated in a “Cross-Regional Reflection for ACT-CSOS” organized by European Union (EU) under the Agents for Citizens-Driven Transformation (ACT) programme in Lagos, May 16-17, 2022. The two days event which held at the Lagos Continental Hotel. The purpose of the Cross-State regional reflection was apt to the ACT programme as it offered partnership opportunities for partners to cross-reflect on ideas, capacity development areas, ways of translating same to institutional capacity building for sectorial transformation, effective project implementation, and impactful humanitarian service delivery that promotes Civic Action and Sustainable Communities.
ED, D-Ability Initiative and other CSO Executives
Some of the guiding questions were:
What was different?
How will you sustain it?
What should we improve on?
There were Cross-state learning and presentations from two groups on different topics including Citizen Engagement, Government engagement, Regulatory environment, Gender, and social inclusion as well as Media engagement and partnership. Group one was Plateau State and group two was Rivers State.Dr. Kingdom U. Nwanyanwu, the Founder and President, D-Ability Initiative gave a presentation for Rivers State. The programme featured a comedy and colorful cultural dinner night between Rivers and Plateau States. Participating CSOs from Rivers State include Talklove Africa, Harmony Centre, Advocacy Center, Kabetkache Women Development and Resource Centre, VEANI, SISDEV, Centre for Creative Development Strategies, EIFEY, LOCE, RINNGOS, and CENGOS.
The World Menstrual Hygiene Day is observed globally every 28th of May because the average interval of a menstrual cycle is 28 days and the cycle continues for about five days a month. Since May is the 5th month of the year, it was chosen.
Dehat Ability Support Initiative (D-Ability Initiative) partnered with the Centre for Creative Development Strategies to observe the World Menstrual Hygiene Day 2022, and to launch the Sustainable menstrual hygiene project. D-Ability Initiative ensured that women with Disabilities were invited, cared for, and made to participate actively in this event. The event received goodwill messages from different organizations, including D-Ability Initiative, represented by a team of Deaf and Hard of Hearing women, an interpreter, and the Monitoring and Evaluation Officer. The President, Dr. Kingdom Nwanyanwu, D-Ability Initiative, and other partner organizations carried out a campaign promoting the importance of menstrual justice.
The Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning Officer thanked the audience for identifying with women and to show support for women regarding their menstrual hygiene. He emphasized that D-Ability Initiative is at the forefront of supporting girls and women who have challenges that may hinder their ability to take advantage of different opportunities. He sighted that the Organization is currently undertaking a project that is aimed at improving the livelihood outcomes of Deaf women and Girls in Obio Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State by building their skills and earning capacity in the fashion industry.
He noted that some of the trainees are participating in the menstrual hygiene day with support from a sign language interpreter who is interpreting the activities of the event to them. One of the Deaf women (Mrs. Marvis Alam Igiri) shared her experience with participants at the event on the challenges she faced when she started seeing her menstruation at the age of 14, but that she is poised to educate her children and other Deaf girls about menstrual hygiene from the lessons she has learned.
Other stakeholder called on Government and international partners to ensure that just as condom is being given free to men/boys, sanitary pads should be given to girls & women for free. The representative from the Ministry of Women Affairs emphasized the need for government at all levels to ensure that they always provide free sanitary pads at schools and public centers. A panel of discussants talked about the role of stakeholders in promoting menstrual hygiene. They urged Educational institutions to be at the forefront of educating the girl child on the need to maintain menstrual hygiene, and to ensure that stigma from the male students is mitigated.
D-Ability Initiative, which represented Rivers State CSOs, participated in the celebration of International Women’s Day 2022, held at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja. The celebration was tagged “Break the Bias.” Breaking the Bias, addressing disparities in access to justice for women with disabilities, the event featured a press briefing, the procession (dance) by 7 disability clusters (the Blind, the Deaf, Spinal Cord Injury (SCI), Albinos, Amputees, Autism etc). Participants included Damilare Babalola, National program manager, Agent for Citizen Driven transformation (ACT); Dr. Ukiwo Ukoho National Programme Manager, Managing Conflict in Nigeria (MCN); Nike Akinbola, Head, Women and Gender Unit, National Commission for Persons with Disabilities, representing the Executive Secretary, National Commission for Persons with Disabilities. Samuel Isopi, Ambassador, Delegation of the European Union to Nigeria and ECOWAS, among others.
International Women’s Day 2022
The event featured two-panel discussions with six panelists. the first-panel discussion focused on the realities of accessing justice and key services. The point highlighted the challenges faced by women with disabilities. All participants were motivated to keep the welfare of women with disabilities in the fore D-Ability Initiative renewed her resolve to advocate for women with disabilities. This event was funded by the European Union, and implemented by the British Council, through the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (ROLAC), Managing Conflict in Nigeria (MCN), and Agent for Citizen-Driven Transformation (ACT) programme respectively.
December 3rd each year is set aside to remember, celebrate and commemorate persons with disabilities the world over. D-Ability initiative, in partnership with Voices of The Vulnerable, marked the IDPD 2021 by engaging in media advocacy and granting interviews on Atlantic Television Network (ATN).
Part of the interview centered on the progress or otherwise recorded as regards the implementation of the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018.
It is obvious that while the Nigerian Government did well by enacting such a laudable law, the implementation leaves much to be desired.
However, we will keep up the advocacy, hoping that someday we will get it right.
This 2 day programme was held at Adgate Hotel, Port Harcourt, Rivers State on October 18-19,2021.
This project was funded by United Nations Democracy fund (UNDEF) and implemented by Women United for Economic Empowerment (WUEE). D-Ability Initiative, along with some selected Civil Society Organization (CSOs) participated in the project. The goal of the project was to strengthen the capacity of CSOs to serve as trainers to local citizens on civic education for the promotion of democracy and good governance in Rivers and Akwa/Ibom States.
This would translate to an increase in the citizens participation in democracy and ensuring good governance in the target state.
The specific objectives were.
(I) To awake the CSOs community -based organization (CBOs), Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs), and others to demand accountability and from the operators of the system.
(II) To raise critical mass of citizens at the Local government level who would be constantly demanding accountability from duty-bearers at the local government level.
(III) To keep the duty -bearers alert to the fact that they are being watched hence should behave in line with democratic tenets among other.
(IV) This project was key because local people have superior capacity to conduct their affairs better than anyone else service delivery would be efficient when conducted through the local government system that are hearer to the people.
Dr. Kingdom Nwanyanwu, President, D-Ability gave a presentation o behalf of group 3. The gap analysis exposed considerable lapses in the nature operations, and processes in the local government in Nigeria.
The challenge: COVID-19 creates barriers for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing as People with disabilities are disregarded in COVID-19 information awareness campaigns There is growing concern that information awareness campaign messages about COVID-19 are on platforms and formats that persons with disabilities have limited access to. While the Coronavirus continues to ravage the world, there is growing concern that critical messages about the disease that are disseminated by health authorities, telecom companies, and broadcasters are not reaching Deaf and Hard of Hearing people. In Nigeria, sections 24 and 25 of the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) require public hospitals and the government to ensure that persons with disabilities are given special considerations, including the provision of special communication during situations of risk, and emergencies (such as Covid-19) and other natural causes. In the midst of a fast-moving outbreak, officials in developed countries use technology to get health information to the deaf and those with hearing loss, but communication gaps remain. What then can be said of developing countries in Africa? The majority of the Deaf in Rivers State are completely cut off from information about the COVID-19 pandemic. In the wake of declaring COVID-19 a global pandemic, the WHO issued guidelines to mitigate the impact of the outbreak on persons with disabilities. It called upon governments to take action to ensure that persons with disabilities are not left behind in the fight against COVID-19.
visiting the Deaf at a workshop for COVID-19 safety sensitization
We are doing what we can: Our team has been reaching out to various Deaf persons in under-served communities in Rivers State for sensitization and orientation on Coronavirus safety guidelines and tips. This orientation takes place both in private homes and at places of work. While it has become necessary to restrict movement, the Deaf are being encouraged to maximize the period for some soft skill acquisition online. This will help minimize street begging. We don’t know who invented the sign for COVID-19 in American Sign Language. But at D-Ability Initiative, we want Deaf and Hard of Hearing people in Nigeria, starting from Rivers State, to know what it means. And we want them to know what they need to do to keep themselves and their families safe during the outbreak. The challenge in the deaf community is with their access to information. People who can hear get incidental knowledge from the television, radio or conversation. Not so for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing people.
Demonstrating hand washing under running water.
Getting information to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing people is challenging, especially in a period of pandemics when information is not only constantly changing but movements are also restricted. But all the Deaf and Hard of Hearing people need to know and understand the health information surrounding the outbreak. In a crisis where information on hand washing and social distancing is the main line of defense, this outreach takes on a new urgency.
Gratitude: We sincerely appreciate all those who have contributed and those who will contribute to foster this great project. We greatly value you. We love you dearly. Thank you. To encourage safety consciousness, we gave out nose masks and hand sanitizers to each person. So far, 56 Deaf persons reached.
In her continued efforts to promote equal access for the Deaf community, D-Ability Initiative promoted inclusive leadership by providing American Sign Language Interpreters and arranging for the Deaf to participate in this high-profile leadership project at Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. 32 Deaf persons were positively impacted along with other youths. We leave no one behind. Special thanks to Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumni Association of Nigeria (MWFAAN) and our volunteers.
This project was done in collaboration with the Department of Government and Public Affairs, Gallaudet University, Washington D.C. This project enlightened the entire Gallaudet University campus community and other invited guests on the “Current Status of Deaf Education in Nigeria: Creating A Way Forward.”
In Nigeria, the state of Deaf education has hardly improved over the years, which has resulted in the underdevelopment of the sign languages in use. Some of the problems militating against the proper education of Deaf and Hard of Hearing children in Nigeria and fueling the embers of stigmatization against them include negative attitudes of many Nigerians toward people with special needs, inadequate government support, lack of equipment, shortage of personnel, late identification of deafness, high levels of illiteracy, and poverty.
Much hope for a rapid development of Deaf communities and Deaf education was raised among deaf learners and deaf educators in the mid 70’s when the federal government assumed the responsibility of running the Schools for the Deaf and to provide basic education for the Nigerian Deaf children. More than four decades after this, the situation remains discouraging and the development of deaf communities and sign language(s) in Nigeria remains gloomy. Deaf education in Nigeria is still far below standard in comparison with deaf education in developed nations.
With Gallaudet University President Roberta Cordano
We seized the opportunity to celebrate and appreciate the work of Andrew Foster for the key role he played in bringing Deaf education to Nigeria. This project also highlighted our plans to reshape Deaf Education in Nigeria.
Appreciation: We are give our heartfelt thanks to: The President, Gallaudet University President Roberta “Bobbi” Cordano; U.S Department of State (YALI); and IREX. We are grateful to Dr. David Penna (Chair, Department of Government and Public Affairs), Dr, Catherine O’Brien who painstakingly worked with our President on the Project. Her support and guidance cannot be quantified. We thank the Gallaudet University Faculty. We also appreciate the works of the hardworking interpreters .
The challenge: Understanding is everything. The importance of understanding the peculiar needs of people with hearing disability cannot be overemphasized. Because of linguistic differences many Deaf and Hard of Hearing persons in Nigeria and other parts of Africa experience marginalization within the circle in which they are supposed to find security- their families. Again many families with Deaf and Hard of Hearing children also stigmatize them by presuming that Deafness is synonymous with inability to learn. They mistake disability for incapability. The potentials of many Deaf and Hard of Hearing persons have been cut short by their families who clip their wings out of misguided concerns for their disability and safety.
Our solution: in our effort to reach the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, promote inclusion, unite families with Deaf and Hard of Hearing persons, as well as support them, we launched this on-going project: the D-Ability Rural Outreach (DARO) Project. This Project provides the opportunity for the hearing family members to understand Deafness and other issues that affect their Deaf and Hard of Hearing family members.
Reaching out to rural areas in search of the families of Deaf and Hard of Hearing persons is a heavy task. It has taken a lot of sacrifices so far and will still do.
Our impact: 38 the Deaf and Hard of Hearing people’s families impacted. Viewpoints about the Deaf are changing, starting from the family circle!
Appreciation: We are grateful to the various families of the Deaf we have so far visited. They have been friendly. We sincerely thank the Nwala’s family for their support. It’s been awesome. We appreciate our volunteers and supporters. This project is worth every effort. We are encouraged. We want to do more.
Deafness is an aspect of disability. Being Deaf in a developing country comes with many undesirable consequences. Illiteracy is one such.
We carried out D-SignAbility Project to enable some Deaf and Hard of Hearing persons in Rivers State, Nigeria, to learn to communicate using basic American Sign Language (ASL).
Impact: This project helped to reduce the burden of illiteracy among the Deaf and Hard of Hearing as it enhanced the free flow of communication among the Deaf community. 62 Deaf and Hard of Hearing persons reached