Dr. Anne Enyi, is the founder and Progrmme Director of the Centre for Deaf Rights and Empowerment (the CDRE), a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) based in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). In this chat with Stanley Onyekwere, she asserts that with adequate adaptation mechanism and support, deaf people are able to thrive and become valuable contributing members of the society. She made this point at the weekend, on the sideline of the grand finale of a 6-Day art exhibition organized by the CDRE, tagged ‘Living in Silence 2”Art Exhibition’, in Abuja. Excerpts:
Tell us about yourself and the CDRE…
I lost my hearing at the age of three, as a result of complications from treatment of measles, but I was fortunate that my parents decided to take me to the United Kingdom, for an operations. And while I was there, the doctors advised my parents that I had to have a good education there, and that was when I stayed back in the UK ; and I attended a deaf nursery and primary school, I was able to thrive. Coming back to Nigeria, later on I became a medical doctor. So I would like to encourage persons living with one challenge or the other especially deaf people that it is possible to achieve their goals and dreams in life, but they have to make sacrifices, they have to work hard. Today, I’m the founder of the cendre for.
The foundation is a Non-Government Organisation (NGO), it was formally established about two and half years ago. We have three main focus areas to include- issues of advocacy and mobilization to push at the very least a deaf inclusive society; secondly, is empowerment, to enable deaf people acquire entrepreneurial or leadership skills, so as to become outstanding citizens of the society; and the third is health, in which we carry out health education and health promotion activities.
What are the major challenges the deaf people face every day in the society?
Communication is the main challenge, because most people around here communicate with speech, while deaf people communicate in sign language, which the majority of the members of the society don’t understand. Another challenge is that a lot of people’s attitudes towards deaf people are not encouraging; they think that deaf people are dumb, but they don’t realize that with adequate adaptation and support, deaf people are able to thrive and become valuable contributing members of the society.
What role can families and relatives of deaf people play in helping them to overcome some of these challenges?
I always tell people, who have deaf family members, especially the young people, that it is important to educate them; they are human beings as well. This is essential, as it helps them to become independent members of the society. To the deaf, they can do anything except hear, but the most appropriate thing is to help them achieve their goals and dreams, by giving them adequate support. It is not going to be easy but it’s worth the effort. Because deaf people cannot write without the right support or they don’t live in a friendly and supportive community.
Specifically, where should the government help in enhancing the capacity of the deaf community?
The government can help by providing proper and appropriate teaching aids for deaf students. For instance deaf school shouldn’t have black boards; they should be using projector screens. And also, they should regularly upgrade the capacity of the teachers, by ensuring that the teachers get regular support, in order to teach deaf students better. Again, the government should streamline and include deaf people in their policies and activities in the society. For example, when you hold a programme for the people through the mass media, the deaf people are unable to use radio, and when they broadcast news on television, the deaf people would not be able to hear what’s going on, because there are no sign language interpreter, there is no subtitle to inform the deaf listener or viewer, in order to understand what’s going on. So they should include deaf people in whatever they do. Of course it doesn’t cost a lot of money to achieve this. But things are the way they are, because the society forgets that if you exclude deaf people in anything, then they become a burden to the society.
About the art exhibition…
We first started living in silence art exhibition last year, so this is the second edition of the exhibition in Abuja. As we did last year, we had collaborationbetween deaf and hearing artists, but this year we decided to bring in deaf artist from Kano state, to showcase their art works in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). And our main purpose is to create and raise awareness on deafness, and people affected, who are seen as living in silence. A lot of people don’t know how much of a light and the kind of discrimination that the deaf community face living in the society. So, we wanted to highlight the issues and raise awareness about that. Like I said, this year, we have featured a couple of deaf artists from Kano state, including one who has come to Abuja for the very first time in his life. And it was a very good exposure, and one of the good news was that the Kenya high commissioner bought one of his artwork. About 14 artists participated, with roughly over 50 artworks.
How was the patronage like at the exhibition?
This year, there was a bit of a low turnout, because we started on Monday, which was a public holiday. We had a few sales, but it could have been a bit better. But we are thankful that we have had the opportunity to showcase talents and skills that the deaf artists have. Originally, for every sale, the NGO uses 20%. We have selected three projects which would benefit from the proceeds from the exhibition- the first is inspired to achieve, to enable deaf children build a better foundation in life, so we aim to build better libraries and provide appropriate teaching projectors in the classes including solar lambs, because deaf people rely so much on light for vision and sign language, without which it would become very difficult to communicate with people; and the second project is the members of the Emir’s Palace Deaf People Cooperative, we want to start a solar training for them; and the third is the blossom deaf women network, in order to help them overcome extreme poverty.