Deaf Zimbabwe Trust: Silent voices echo the loudest

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By Darlington Gatsi

SINCE time immemorial people with disabilities have been shunned.

Stigma is one many factors that have left people with disabilities at the periphery of African societies, leaving them socially and economically disenfranchised.

In the education sector people with disabilities are excluded as policy framework falls short in embracing them.

It is this exclusion that sparked lawyer, Lyndon Nkomo, 10 years ago to enunciate silent activism.

“One day I went to a school where my son was learning. Then I asked the school secretary there if deaf people pass their academics but she told me there is nothing that can come out of them, we are just wasting time,” said Nkomo.

Lyndon’s son Dumisani has a hearing impairment.

His birth and the stigma that was associated with him in school prompted him to amplify voices of the deaf community.

Through Deaf Zimbabwe Trust, Nkomo ignited advocacy for people with hearing impairment.

“Deaf Zimbabwe Trust was born out of pain, frustration and despair. I was angry with the school and even the system. I saw a lot of injustice to the deaf community and my child was in a hopeless situation. My anger reached a boiling point when she said that and at that moment I said to myself I will fight for the rights of deaf people,” said Nkomo.

Deaf Zimbabwe Trust became one of the anchors in fighting for the rights of people with hearing impairment.

This advocacy led to loud voices for sign language to be adopted as one of official languages in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe is one of few countries that recognises signing as a language.

“Some of the things that made Deaf Zimbabwe Trust to be established are coming to fruition now. We now have graduates coming through the hands of Deaf Zimbabwe Trust,” he said.

According to experts 90 percent of deaf people are not able to master local languages as sign language is taught in English.

This therefore hinders communication by deaf people in critical areas such as health services or in reporting cases.

Deaf Zimbabwe Trust is among organisations that are lobbying parliament to adopt the African Disability Protocol (ADP).

The ADP Legal framework established in 2018 addresses forms of discrimination faced by people with disabilities. It was adopted by the Executive Council of the African Union.

Deaf Zimbabwe Trust cofounder Precious Nkomo said the organisation will continue to crank up pressure on policy makers to enact legislation that encompass people with disabilities.

“There is so much that has to be done in terms of education, access to communication and changing policy when it comes to disability inclusion. The first thing the country has to do is learn to appreciate being disability inclusive,” she said.