Gender shadow minister Navicha decries discrimination against deaf people

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) shadow Minister of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare Mary Thom Navicha has bemoaned the tendency of by some to stigmatize against hearing impaired people at work place, schools, and business places saying that is infringement of their rights.

Navicha has also called upon government to consider introduction of Sign language starting from primary school up to University.

Navicha was speaking on Wednesday, October 6, 2021 as Malawi commemorated the International Day of Sign Languages, which officially falls on September. The day was set aside by United Nations to raise awareness and importance of sign languages as a human rights issue.

DPP spokesperson on Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare Mary Thom Navicha

Malawi, she said, must thrive to uproot the rampant stigmatization and discrimination against persons with deaf impairment as one way respecting and upholding their civil liberties and constitutionalism.

This years theme is “We sign for our rights”.

Navicha told Nyasa Times in an interview on Wednesday that apart from the meagre resources that government allocates to the line Ministry of Gender, the social stigma against the deaf within the household where children with such impairment are born.

“Sometimes parents get ‘ashamed’ of their own deaf sons and daughters and this has been a huge problem for many decades and I think time has now come that as a country, we enact laws against parents who feel ‘ashamed’ of and ill-treat their deaf children,” said the Navicha who is also Member of Parliament (MP) for Thyolo Thava.

She said some barriers are related to healthcare. She points that inadequate clinical training and accommodation which includes not having sign language interpreter present at the healthcare institution or not having hearing aids for the patients is roadblock for them to access quality healthcare.

Navicha, who is ex-gender minister under the former President Peter Mutharika and the DPP government, said most doctors and clinical officers, nurses and midwives do not receive training about deaf culture, and values of visual access for communication with deaf patents.

Navicha also said that the education system must be modified to accommodate learners of hearing impairments.

“Experts say that learners and students with hearing impairment face challenges like shortage of hearing aids, communication barrier with the community surrounding the leaning institutions, inadequate funding, shortage of teachers and lack of transport logistics. Rural learners are the most disadvantaged,” Navicha said.

Navicha said every citizen should be able to use sign language in order to assist deaf impaired people.

“May I call upon government to increase intake of Special Needs teachers in colleges and universities as most schools don’t have them in schools which hinders learners and students from fulfilling their full potential,” she said.

She has also asked government to start giving soft loans to hearing impaired people so that they engage in self sustainable entrepreneurship.

President Lazarus Chakwera who was a Guest of Honour at the commemoration ceremony, which was held at BICC in Lilongwe on Wednesday said sign language must never be used as favour for the deaf people and that he has asked the Ministry of Information to make sure that every Television Station has a sign interpreter.

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