By Louise Jobe
Gambia Association of Deaf and Hard of Hearing joined the rest of the world to commemorate international week of the Deaf on Friday, 22nd September 2017.
The commemoration first took the form of a parade in the morning, from the Westfield junction to GADHOH Head office at Kanifing and was led by the Police band.
The Executive Director of GADHOH Mr. Dodou Loum, in his remarks called on Government to make concerted efforts to protect the rights of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Mr. Loum enumerated some of these rights as the right to access sign languages, education, employment opportunities, justice, adequate services e.g support tests and the provision of hearing aid kits for persons with hearing impairment and the inclusion of sign language in the school curriculum, for the ease of communication.
Mr. Madi Jorbarteh the Director of Tango in his opening remarks, expressed solidarity with the deaf community of the Gambia and the world in pursuance of their human rights and dignity; that being deaf is one disability that human beings can acquire. Jobarteh said being deaf reduces no ability or beauty from a human being other than the capacity to hear sound and transmit words.
‘‘Deaf persons have therefore all other faculties fully and actively sound and functional like any other human being. Yet in many societies such as the Gambia, deaf persons continue to face intolerable discrimination and prejudice,’’ he said.
Mr. Jorbarteh said in the Gambia, deaf persons face multiple forms of discrimination at home, in the work place, in communities and public places and in relationships. He called on Government to create the necessary facilities to ensure that deaf persons obtain full and quality education like all other persons, by constructing the first public school for deaf children.
‘‘Public schools in the Gambia lack the teachers and facilities to incorporate in classrooms. In addition, the national television has no sign language newscaster so as to enable deaf citizens to also follow local and international news as well as enjoy entertainment and benefit from other educational programs,’’ Mr. Jobarteh said.
Mr. Jorbateh tasked the education authorities to consider sign language users and accord them the same respect and equality like Mandika, Aku, Jola or Serer etc. language users; that hence by failing to provide the adequate facilities for the education of deaf persons, the society has effectively subjected them to a life of poverty, destitution and begging; that this is an injustice that must be fought against. Mr. Jorbarteh insisted that the Barrow Administration should invest national resources to services and facilities that ensure deaf persons and all persons with disability, enjoy the same rights and opportunities as the rest of the citizenry. ‘‘They must demand that sign language be recognized as a bonafide Gambian language like wolof, Manjago or Sarahuleh among others,’’ he said. He concluded that if people claim to be just, good Muslims and Christians who uphold the value of Islam and Christianity, and if they claim to be a civilized society as espoused in their National Anthem, then they must not allow any section of their society to remain wretched. They must call for equality and justice otherwise their society will be one of pretence where they preach one thing but do a different thing altogether.
Madam Tarban Correa spoke on behalf of the Director of Action Aid. She said it‘s the responsibility of everyone in ensuring that rights especially the ones on special needs are respected, promoted, protected and fulfilled; that it is a known fact that special needs persons particularly the hard of hearing, are often side lined in development interventions and initiatives. She said in the Gambia, the state and none state functions, programs, activities and interventions, rarely include sign languages; that in most countries now, consideration is made for the hard of hearing and other special needs persons, for inclusive participation in all programes and activities. The views and opinions of this category of people are important in designing and implementing programs that affects their lives and livelihood. Other speakers at the occasion included Mrs. Haddy Dandeh Njie from FLAG, Ms. Isatou Sanyang, Chairperson of GADHOH and Mr. Bruno Mensah, from Human Right.