- Felix Onyango
Reaching out the Deaf women in Face of COVID-19 Kenya National Deaf Women Peace Network (KNDWOP-Net
In association with Kenya National Deaf Women Peace Network (KNDWOP-Net)
“Thank you KESWA for the timely intervention of toll-free numbers. Sex workers on the ground have been violated over time, and due to financial constraints, are unable to reach out promptly.... justice delayed is justice denied...” said one beneficiary.
KNDWOP-Net is a community-based organization which was formed out of a unique experience of individual Deaf women. The mission of the organization is to train, lobby and advocate for human rights of Deaf women in Kenya through empowerment programs and creating awareness of Deaf community on issues that promote positive attitude and action among policy makers and implementers, the community and families. The COVID 19 pandemic has brought several challenges in the world. The deaf community in Kenya have had to get information late, through interpreters to keep up with the education, communication that is happening rapidly. There is however some limitation to how the communication, information and education reach the deaf community in the rural and urban settings. Despite these challenges there are innovations and ideas that this situation has presented as opportunities for accessibility by the deaf community themselves. KNDWP-Net aimed to engage in these activities with a goal to educate, sensitize and empower the deaf community living in informal settings in Nairobi on COVID- 19.
KNDWOP developed and distributed 150 materials with COVID- 19 messaging for the deaf community in Kenyan Sign Language for various audiences - children, youth and adults. They also facilitated the delivery of essential medicines for those unable to collect or go for regular clinics e.g. those on ART, Insulin etc. and provided transport to those who needed to go to the clinics. They facilitated counselling and psychosocial support for those families affected by COVID-19. As a result, there was increased awareness about COVID-19 among the deaf, deaf people are observing Ministry of Health guidelines including social distancing, hand washing and are able to identify symptoms of COVID- 19.
“There was a deaf client who is a woman. She had experienced Gender based violence from her own husband. She was counselled by our councillors; she has been given ongoing counselling for several sessions because she lived with trauma for a long time till she developed emotional and mental health issues. She is now able to cope with life and she has resumed her normal duties. She is now smiling and has started a small business to support herself and her young son”, said one KNDWOP member.
The deaf women and girls reached by the program and intervention have been empowered to self-advocate, demand for their rights and are ready to seek health services. The accessible communication and information materials have sparked conversation on the importance of inclusion and integration of "Leave No One Behind" from slogan to practicality. The key lessons learned was that information should be accessible to everyone even If they are linguistic minorities. No one should be left behind when it comes to information.