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Disability 2030 – A New Agenda?

Photograph of Priti PatelAt Portcullis House yesterday we welcomed Priti Patel’s commitment to addressing the needs of D/deaf and disabled people in low resource, development and humanitarian settings. ‘Disability should be entwined in “every single aspect of what we do in the development space as the United Kingdom”, she said. Furthermore, ‘Children around the world with disabilities are four times more prone to violence. That is just appalling’ Patel went onto say.

Whilst we welcome this announcement, we’re proceeding with caution… This is a Minister who was instrumental in cutting employment and support allowances for D/deaf and disabled people in the UK…. We’re also cautious because we take a view you can’t load D/deaf and disabled people into one overarching cohort and call it ‘the disabled’. So we’ll be looking to work with DFID, through our Special Representative and other networks, to ensure this distinction is understood; that there is a phonocentric differentiation and that the intricacies of communication, linquistics and culture, as experienced by D/deaf children and young people and their families, are noted. Interestingly, this is where initiatives such as the ADCAP, ‘Minimum Standards for Age and Disability Inclusion in Humanitarian Action’, are making some progress. In this eminent work, the communication needs of D/deaf people have been singled out for distinct attention, yet no-where in the Standards is there any mention of sign language interpreters or Human Aids to Communication… So we’re not quite there yet.

We’re currently looking at integrated pathways of safeguarding and ear & hearing care in Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Jamaica. So we’ll be liaising with the respective DFID Health Advisers to demonstrate the uniqueness of DeafKidz International’s approach and to affirm, in a practical and positive way, how dedicated and specific provision for D/deaf children can really make a difference; that such approaches can be both impactful and value for money.

Leaving No D/deaf Child Behind – The Start of a Journey…

Professor Rashid Gatrad, OBE, DL, presents on the joint DKI / MIAT partnership in Pakistan

Professor Rashid Gatrad, OBE, DL, presents on the joint DKI / MIAT partnership in Pakistan

Our first Day Conference was an outstanding success. More than 60 decision makers from global safeguarding, health, development and humanitarianism, gathered at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health; speakers and session leaders from Zimbabwe, South Africa, Palestine and more.

The theme of the Day was ‘Leave No D/deaf Child Behind’ and to ensure this, we set out a challenge to everyone present; that they should look to integrate D/deaf children and young people into their programmatic planning and implementation.

To do this successfully means a shift in thinking. A new paradigm of empowerment that doesn’t see D/deaf children as a hard to reach group that require specialist and expensive support; support that never gets funded because it’s not ‘cost effective’. And so we go round in circles, effectively condemning D/deaf children, because of their D/deafness, to a life of poverty, abuse and marginalisation.

We’re not having that.

More advocacy work needs to be done, so we’re going to ramp up our efforts to ensure D/deaf children and young people are included at the highest level of global safeguarding and health decision making.

Suheir Albadarneh of the Palestinian Red Crescent reports on the challenges facing D/deaf children in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Suheir Albadarneh of the Palestinian Red Crescent reports on the challenges facing D/deaf children in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

And already, we’re having some success. As delegates to the Day Conference heard, the UNICEF global End Violence campaign will encompass the needs of D/deaf children and young people. An undertaking we will continue to progress with Susan Bissell and her colleagues in New York and worldwide.

And in terms of the challenge we tabled at the Day Conference? Again, we’re making some progress;

Save the Children UK’s commitment to fund our research work on the needs of D/deaf children in the current European refugee, migrant and asylum seeker crisis; the findings of which could have a profound impact upon Save’s programmatic design and planning work.

The Consortium for Street Children’s global strategy will look to include the safeguarding, communication and healthcare needs of D/deaf children.

The British Council is exploring inclusion of D/deaf children in its global work. In both Jamaica and South Africa we’re making progress.

The Day Conference was an experiment, a test, and it worked. We’re going to develop the Conference concept so that it becomes a global forum for stakeholders working with D/deaf children in health, development and humanitarianism, to look at the issues and challenges they face.

Next year the Conference will take place in Kingston, Jamaica. We look forward to seeing you there.

Exercising Rights – The Complexity of Sexual Health

Through our developing work with the likes of Marie Stopes International, Child Helpline International, British Council Caribbean and South Africa’s Health Economic AIDS Research Department, we’re emerging, quite simply, as the world’s leading authority on sexual rights and access to sexual health provision, for D/deaf young, people in low resource settings.

Our new sexual rights and reproductive health tool-kit draws reference the experience of our local partners in Kenya, South Africa, Jamaica and Zimbabwe. This isn’t a ‘first world’ resource imposed on middle and low income countries. It’s a locally informed and empirically evidenced kit aimed at healthcare professionals, educationalists, community activists and, of course, young people themselves. This is a resource whose design has been led by D/deaf young people and whose curriculum and content has been proven by those practitioners working first hand with D/deaf young people, in the most diverse and challenging of settings. Where the reality of exercising one rights to sexual health means making an informed decision re. sexual desire, intimacy, relationships, family planning, the issue of unplanned pregnancy, mitigating the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases; ever more important in sub-Saharan Africa where rates of HIV are leading to a greater susceptibility to neurological disorders and cancer.

All of which evidences that the sexuality and the sexual health of D/deaf young people doesn’t stand alone – it’s a complex matter that is compounded by issues such as poverty, stigma, discrimination and violence. For D/deaf young women, these can mean displacement, being denied femininity, sexuality and the right for motherhood. For D/deaf young men, this can mean the need to understand male sexuality, identity and power; through which potential abusers are checked and the propensity for sexual violence reduced, especially in conflict situations where sexual violence is used as a weapon of war.

Empirical data on the Sexual and Reproductive Health, and Rights, experience of D/deaf children and young people is critically lacking. This hampers effective health and development planning and makes attaining target 3.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals a challenge. But with the resources we’re developing and in association with our partners, we’re looking to address this evidence and knowledge gap. Suffice to say, we’re on it and we’ll leave no D/deaf child behind.

Signing Safe Futures South Africa!

Photograph of stacks of decision docketsWith our partners Childline South Africa, Child Helpline International and the UK Police Link Officer for the Deaf scheme, we’ve commenced a two year development / pilot activity aimed at establishing Africa’s first dedicated helpline capacity for responding to the protection needs of D/deaf children and young people.

Funded by Comic Relief, this progressive work sees the training and deployment of a dedicated D/deaf aware staff team within Childline South Africa. It addition, it will see the development, trialling and evaluation of an innovative new Video Relay service so that D/deaf children and young people may access ready online Childline counselling support, in the communication mode of choice; be it sign language, sign supported spoken language or community-sign. Furthermore, UK Police will work with the South African Police to establish a local Police Link capacity which will respond appropriately to disclosure by D/deaf children, as and when it occurs, so that the best care and support can be made available to them and their families.

This is a sizable initiative and one that will deliver a global impact, making a difference to the lives of thousands. From these beginnings, DeafKidz International will work to develop a Video Relay practice and methodology, which will transform the way that Child Helplines interact with D/deaf children and young people. Such that in 10 years time; every D/deaf child will be able to access Helpline support, wherever they are and whatever the issue. Job done!

For now, we’re building the service architecture, collaborating closely with the likes of EPCAT Luxembourg – to ensure we’ve got the language & terminology of abuse right; Childline’s Kenya and Zimbabwe – to where cascade will occur once South Africa is proven; technical Video Relay providers in the US – to ensure we have an operating platform that is robust and capable. Over and above all of this, we’re working to ensure our service design reflects the protocols of the WHO’s End Violence initiative and UNICEF’s Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children. We’re looking to demonstrate that through the assembly of powerful partnerships and through auspicious programme design, the protection needs of D/deaf children and young people can, indeed, be realised and their susceptibility to the risk of violence, mitigated.

Setting a Pace; Making a Difference – DeafKidz International Jamaica

Two Satisfied DKI / JAD Parenting Course Graduates at May Pen Unit for the Deaf

Two Satisfied DKI / JAD Parenting Course Graduates at May Pen Unit for the Deaf

Our Jamaica programme continues to make a difference to D/deaf children and young people in this most challenging of environments. Through the medium of sport and dance activities, safeguarding messages and learning is disseminated to D/deaf children so that they can self-assert and say ‘No!’ to abuse. Through a series of school and community group based activity programmes, they are using sport and dance to ascertain identity, develop confidence and demonstrate, peer to peer, best practice. The discipline and rigour of both sport and dance facilitating the acquisition of critical safeguarding and protection skills for life.

The parenting element of the programme continues to change lives; 22 parents have just completed a 13 week parenting course at the May Pen Unit for the Deaf, West of Kingston. This progressive course has seen parents complete a Level 1 course in Jamaican Sign Language and Deaf Culture. Furthermore, the course has enabled the participating parents to bond and develop their own support networks; essential when bringing up a D/deaf child.

In partnership with the Jamaican Constabulary, UK Police Link Officer’s for the Deaf have just completed a criminal justice workshop aimed at introducing policing and criminal justice professionals to the intricacies of responding to the safeguarding needs of D/deaf children. Attended by Mrs. Justice Zaila McCalla, Chief Justice of Jamaica and a number of District Judges, the course was a precursor to the Police Link Officer development programme that DeafKidz International will deliver in partnership with UK Police. This is a significant undertaking and one that will cross reference with similar work with the South African Police and the Zimbabwe Republic Police; both being delivered by DeafKidz International and UK Police in partnership with, respectively, ChildLine South Africa and ChildLine Zimbabwe.

There are other aspects to the growing Jamaica programme too; the piloting of a new Video Relay Interpreting service for use in health and criminal justice settings and the piloting of a New Born Screening programme in partnership with the Ministry of Health and the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO). All of which is underpinned by a new DeafKidz International / Jamaica Association for the Deaf business development partnership, aimed at ensuring sustainability on the basis of evidenced impact. Our second global conference on responding to the needs of D/deaf children and young people in low resource settings is to be held in Jamaica in 2017. There we will be presenting, with a number of our stakeholders and partners, the work we’ve undertaken in Jamaica and tabling our critical path for cascade across the Caribbean. Together, we’ll leave no D/deaf child behind in the Caribbean.

The Migrant Crisis – Advocating for a D/deaf Inclusive Response

Photograph of a girl with a puppetWe’re continuing to respond to the needs of D/deaf children trapped in the migrant crisis where the challenges they face, it goes without saying, are complex. Whilst we may be dealing, initially, with ear & hearing care needs, these don’t stand alone; they are intrinsically linked to safeguarding, protection, healthcare, speech & language developmental needs and more. If as a D/deaf child you are unable to communicate, you become removed, marginalised, from other children, your own family and from your own parents, even. Withdrawal occurs and with it, comes a lethargic reluctance to engage in the most basic of communication. With family members busy trying to cope with the shifting pressures inherent within a migrant camp, the development of speech and the acquisition of language, which is an absolute essential for D/deaf children and young people, is hampered. This, in turn leads to an inability to self-advocate, self-represent and a resultant increased risk of abuse such as abduction and trafficking.

We’re determined to address this and over the next few weeks will be preparing heads of terms for an all-new, European wide, assessment of the needs of D/deaf migrant children and young people. Conducted in association with a number of key partners, this work will pave the way for true and life changing inclusion.

The Migrant Crisis: Responding to the Needs of D/deaf Children and Young People

Photograph of a migrant camp100,000 migrants have entered Europe this year – and many, many, more will follow. There are D/deaf CYP within this migrant population…. We’ve met them and seen the appalling conditions in which they’re living and the insecurity they face. Accordingly, we’re working with a range of stakeholders to ensure that the needs of D/deaf children and young people trapped in this modern nightmare are met.

Pictured in a French migrant camp, this five year old is struggling to keep his cochlea implant serviceable in the wet, damp and dirty conditions. Furthermore, to charge the equipment that keeps his implant equipment functional. Rest assured, we’ll make sure this cochlea implant works and does the job it was designed to do.

We’ve seen that other D/deaf children lack communication support and therefore struggle to access the rudimentary healthcare and educational provision available in the camps. In this whole sifting flux of people, the protection of D/deaf children is also a key challenge. How do you mitigate the risk of trafficking and abuse, especially when the big INGOs are not remotely D/deaf aware? We’re on it and we’ll crack it through a process of structured consultation and D/deaf awareness training.

The French authorities may have started the demolition of the Calais ‘Jungle’, but this crisis isn’t going away and here at DeafKidz International, we’re settling down for the long haul.

The Global Partnership to End Violence Against D/deaf Children

Photograph of a child's eyesWe welcome the UNICEF led Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children. Children and young people should not be at risk of, or exposed to, violence at all. Ever. Yet in our work, the evidence is overwhelming. Physical and sexual violence against D/deaf children is endemic. We’ve evidenced it in South Africa and we’re doing the same in Jamaica, Zimbabwe, the Palestinian Territories, Pakistan and more… And as and when we have a critical mass of evidence to disseminate – we’ll publish it.

Our programme in Jamaica has encountered some appalling sexual abuse with the victims as young as 4 years of age and the abuse perpetrated by a parent. We’re not having that and rest assured, we’re working with our partners in Jamaica to ensure this case and others are remedied as best possible. But it’s difficult, D/deafness is a disability few agencies understand and it is expensive; it involves expensive human resources like Sign Language and Deaf Relay interpreters. To properly equip child protection and criminal justice professionals require specialist and costly communications training. So, ironically, whilst it seems everyone in Western Europe and North America wants to learn sign language and $ millions is spent on ‘BabySign’, few agencies want to fund the protection of D/deaf children. Because it’s complicated, involves huge communication barriers and everything takes so long. So the global health and humanitarian community just skim over things and pay lip service, labelling D/deafness as ‘disability’, a convenient and useful blanket term.

We’ll be looking to address these issues in our consultation with the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children; that the authentic D/deaf voice of DeafKidz International is heard at all levels. We’ll be looking to see that the Partnership’s work is truly inclusive and that in pursuit of Sustainable Development Goal 16.2, the nightmare of violence against D/deaf children is tangibly addressed.

We’re realistic though, this will all take time and it won’t be easy, but we’re on it.

The Trafficking of D/deaf Children in Pakistan

Photograph of a Pakistan skylineAs we continue to monitor our new-born screening pilot and also further develop our integrated ear & hearing pathway of care, we’re becoming increasingly aware of the distinct challenges facing D/deaf children and young people in Pakistan.

To our horror it seems D/deaf children and young people are being trafficked from Gurjat and other Punjab districts into Iran. Mainly, it seems for the purposes of labour and prostitution. In addition, we’re learning, D/deaf girls and young women from Bangladesh and Burma are being trafficked inwards, into Pakistan, for the purposes of prostitution. However, it appears that to date, no specific and dedicated investigative / assessment work has ever been undertaken in respect of this outrage.

Drawing reference from our work in South Africa and Zimbabwe (our report on the abuse and exploitation of D/deaf children and Young people in South Africa, ‘Behind the Green Door’ – funded by Comic Relief – met with critical acclaim), our partnerships with UK PLOD, IPSCAN and Child Helpline International, we’re looking at how best to respond.

As with our emerging work on the radicalisation of D/deaf children and young people, we’re moving carefully. We need to secure empirical evidence so that we can consider how best to proceed with the local D/deaf community and our global health partners – both locally in Pakistan and also internationally.

This isn’t going to be easy – communities and networks will close in to obstruct us… But we’ll tackle this, no D/deaf child should experience the horror of trafficking… Ever.

Advancing DeafKidz Jamaica! Sports Festival is a Winner!

Young girl at the DeafKidz Jamaica sports dayD/deaf children and adults from across Jamaica converged on the island’s Mona Bowl for the first ever DeafKidz Jamaica sports day.

The two-day event saw hundreds of children from schools for the D/deaf across the island compete against each other in netball, football, track and field and table tennis on day one, whilst D/deaf adults also joined the action for day two!

The festival was aimed at enabling D/deaf children and young people to participate in a fun sport activity which also, through a series of carefully planned activities, delivered and reinforced messaging on safeguarding, child rights and child protection. All of which served to raise awareness of abuse and how best to mitigate its occurrence.

Executive Officer of the Jamaica Association for the Deaf, Iris Soutar; “Deaf children tend to face stigma and discrimination which leads to low self-concepts. Thus, one of the aims of the sports day is to empower the children through sports. The Advancing DeafKidz Jamaica! sports day helped to provide numerous opportunities for developing self-esteem and self-respect”.

Poster for the DeafKidz Jamaica sports dayIn partnership with DeafKidz International, who provided development support and guidance, the Jamaica Association for the Deaf has worked to build a far reaching collaboration between the University of Technology, the Sports Development Foundation and Deaf Sport Jamaica. Working together, a robust foundation has been established; one that will enable future festivals to have an even greater impact as Stephanie McIntyre-Groves, Project Co-ordinator, explains; “This festival is a first. It builds upon Deaf Sport Jamaica’s existing work but enables us to ensure distinct activity around safeguarding occurs with both D/deaf children and, of course, their parents. This festival has been a considerable success and we were pleased to have the opportunity to continue dialogue with our partners at the British High Commission, UNESCO, UNICEF and DFID, as we work to further develop our programmatic work both in Jamaica and across the wider Caribbean. As a D/deaf led organisation with an authentic voice, we’re about getting things done”.


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