IMPROVING THE ECONOMIC FORTUNES OF THE DEAF

About twenty regional executive members of the Ghana National Association of the Deaf (GNAD) have pledged their commitment to use their newly acquired advocacy skills to efficiently advocate an improvement in the business environment and livelihoods of deaf persons in Ghana. 

The leadership of GNAD made the pledge after undergoing a four-day basic advocacy training which forms part of the association’s advocacy action supported by the BUSAC Fund and their development partners, DANIDA, USAID and the EU. 

The executive members of GNAD participated in the training programme to equip themselves with the evidence-based advocacy skills needed to enable them engage relevant duty bearers on the need to recognize and integrate sign language into every aspect of societal life in Ghana. 

Participants at the programme expressed high levels of satisfaction and appreciation for the opportunity to learn very useful concepts in business advocacy such as the structure of the Ghanaian business environment, the role of advocacy in the improvement of the business environment, engaging in evidenced-based advocacy, the importance of public-private sector dialogue and the role of the media in business advocacy.

In response to a question from the BUSAC Fund Manager, Mr. Nicolas Gebara, members of GNAD listed a number of challenges within the Ghanaian business environment that adversely affect the standard of living of deaf persons. 

The National President of the association, Mr. Emmanuel K. Sackey, stated that the non-recognition of sign language as one of the official media of communication has made it difficult for deaf persons to effectively interact with the rest of society, thereby leading to their inability to contribute significantly to national development. 

“The Disability Act, 715 clearly makes provisions for the recognition of sign language as an official medium of communication, just like any of the local languages we speak. But because the act is not being enforced, sign language is not recognized and used anywhere in Ghana; so even public facilities like hospitals do not have sign language interpreters, making it difficult for the deaf to get good treatment at such places. We hope to change this situation through our advocacy action”, Mr. Sackey emphasized. 

Other challenges highlighted by participants include subtle discrimination against deaf persons in Ghana, leading to their inability to gain meaningful employment or access to essential social services like the acquisition of a driver’s license.  

Participants also lamented that many teachers in Ghanaian schools are not interested in learning the sign language to enable them properly teach deaf school children under their care; they therefore rely heavily on the few sign language interpreters available in their daily interaction with deaf children. 

Members of GNAD further disclosed that even many parents show little interest in the potentials and welfare of their deaf children because of their disability. They said such parents focus more attention on their able-bodied children, and therefore do not make any effort to learn the sign language to enhance their communication with the deaf children.

Mr. Gebara encouraged members of the association to prioritize and present only a few of their most pressing challenges to duty bearers at a time, while also proposing clear solutions to those challenges in the course of dialogue in order to achieve rapid results for their advocacy action.

Many members of the association who participated in the training programme were optimistic and expressed their expectations about how their newly acquired advocacy skills will empower them to effectively advocate for a change in the fortunes of the deaf. 

Participants also expressed the hope that the training will boost their ability to think out of the box and explore new ways of engaging the public sector and their community in fruitful dialogue.  

Ms. Esther Cofie, a youth section member of GNAD stated that she intends to share the knowledge she got from the basic advocacy training with other members of GNAD in her region to enable them cause a change in the attitude of policy makers towards the needs of deaf persons in Ghana.

“Personally, I think that there is the need for policy makers to pay better attention to the health needs of deaf persons. I therefore hope to use my new advocacy skills to convince policy makers to establish a special clinic for deaf persons in Ghana”, she remarked.

Mr. Marco Stanley Nyarko, President of the Eastern Regional branch of GNAD, also stated that the training programme has taught him about the importance of the media in advocating for a change in the attitude of policy makers towards deaf persons.

“Through this training, I have learnt how to use social media tools, websites and the electronic media to help achieve results for our advocacy action. From here, I’m going to use these communication channels to highlight the evidence gathered to support our advocacy action”,  Mr. Nyarko assured. 

The Project Officer of the association, Mr. Robert Sampana testified that the training programme has taught him the importance of the use of persuasive dialogue in advocacy, as opposed to the use of violence.

“Prior to this training programme, I had often been aggressive in my deliberations with policy makers on issues affecting the deaf; and this made them uncooperative. But with the knowledge acquired here, I will now engage policy makers only in constructive dialogue”, he disclosed.  

Mr. Emmanuel Sackey thanked the BUSAC Fund for supporting their advocacy action, and expressed the hope that the advocacy skills acquired at the training programme will enable the association to convince duty bearers to integrate sign language into Ghana’s educational curriculum and also recognize it as a genuine medium of communication in all aspects of societal life.

Story: Ebenezer Kpentey, the BUSAC Fund