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Habel Ouma: Deaf Rights Advocacy in Kenya

Habel Ouma, Deaf rights advocate in Kenya, promotes deaf education & employment, justice for gender-based violence, & sign interpreting.
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Habel Ouma

Image description: A man is seated, signing to the camera.

Transcript: Okay, my name is Habel Ouma. I’m the Chairman of Kakamega Deaf Association. And I’m also the national vice chairperson of the UDPK meaning the Union of Disabled Persons of Kenya.

I will share about myself and what work I’ve been doing in Kenya for deaf people. Also how I’ve been advocating for the rights of deaf people in Kenya, especially in Kakamega County in the western part of Kenya. I work to motivate deaf students in training high school, encouraging them to work hard in school and improve education of deaf people. I also sit on the board of a high school for deaf students.

Deaf Education in Kenya

I’m a board member of four high schools for the deaf and one primary school for the deaf in the western region part of Kenya. This is to improve the education of deaf education and creating awareness of deafness in Kenya.

Human Rights and Advocacy

And I also work on human rights and advocacy for deaf people in Kenya, access to knowledge and information in sign language, so that people in the public can understand deaf people and know how to communicate with deaf people.

Now we’ve started teaching sign language for people in public health, police and university and also in court. This year about five staff people from Masinde Muliro University have learned basic sign language. So now they can communicate with deaf people who access their services in the institution of the University.

Gender-Based Violence

I also work on gender-based violence and the rights of deaf women and girls. We have situation of many deaf who are raped who need to access their justice in courts. As I am talking now we have three cases in court. One deaf was pregnant and in high school form two. Now she has already given birth out of school, her case still going on in court. Two other deaf who were raped, pregnant already given birth and now also out of school . We have many deaf, young girls who facing experience gender based violence. Many people misused the deaf for sexual violence, which violates their rights.

Deaf Inclusion in Services, Education, Employment

Also we are now advocating for inclusion of the deaf so that they can be included in planning. Then they can access education and access better services in different departments in the government in Kenya and County levels so they can enjoy accessibility in whatever the services. We also advocate the rights of the deaf to be employed because the employment of deaf is very low deaf. We need to fight so we improve the number of the deaf being employed at the County level, and also at the national level.

Habel Ouma in Washington DC, USA

Also I wanted to share that last year, after 2016 when we visited the US in Washington, DC, we went for an exchange visit to experience the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). We also learned much specialized knowledge about the way sign language interpreters offer services to deaf people, which is not the same as in Kenya.

Sign Language Interpreters in Kenya

Good luck through support of Mobility International USA (MIUSA), we were able to support a program where we had one expert from U.S. named Elizabeth. She came to Kenya in August, when she did some analysis and got some views of different sign language interpreters. Also in Kenya, we don’t have regulations for sign language interpreter’s policy.

But as I am talking now there is progress. At the same time as the US expert came back in the month of October last 2018, we came up with some way forward for the future where Kenya can have their own Sign language interpreters policy that will regulate all sign language interpreters in Kenya in ethics, in policy, in services. We try our best to improve the better services for sign language interpreters in Kenya.

So all these we do believe that we shall succeed through working with Kenya National Association of the Deaf (KNAD) in Kenya. So we needs your support, your help to make us achieve what we want. Thank you!

Habel Ouma, a Deaf rights advocate in Kenya, shares some of the advocacy work he has done. He is on the board for several schools for deaf students in Kenya. He also works with the Kenya National Association of the Deaf (KNAD). He works on issues related to deaf education, employment, gender-based violence, sign language interpreting, and more.

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