Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Deaf learn to vote and sign

Deaf learn to vote and sign

Training for deaf people and their families in voting and international sign language began on 22 February in Juba, Central Equatoria State.

The training aimed to boost awareness of the electoral process among the state's deaf population, so that they could participate in upcoming April elections and communicate through sign language.

Organized by Southern Sudan Deaf Development Concern (SSDDC) and sponsored by UNMIS, the 10-day workshop's initial session at Juba Christian Centre was attended by 25 of 150 targeted participants.

Although Sudanese are set to vote in the country's first inclusive elections for 24 years, many of both the deaf and hearing population are ignorant of the voting process as well as electoral candidates.

"We are privileged today that we are going to learn and understand how to vote," said SSDC Chairperson Peter Kachinga, thanking UNMIS for its support.

Alfred Lodiong, deputy director of the Government of Southern Sudan Ministry of Education, noted that voter education had been challenging for the special needs department of his ministry.

Stressing the need for all Sudanese to exercise their political rights regardless of status, he added, "Some are unfortunate … (and) may not be able to benefit from this training. I therefore urge you to pass on this knowledge to others."

Mathew Dominic, team leader for UNMIS Electoral Assistance Division in Southern Sudan, emphasized that every single vote counted. "It is important for us to recognize this fact and ensure that PWD (Persons with Disabilities) have equal opportunities for voter education."

He added that PWD had the same rights as others to participate in elections as voters, members of a political party or candidates.

"The fact that your association SSDDC has made an effort to reach out … and make sure you understand the provisions of the law and receive its benefits … like equal citizens of this country, is a commendable effort," Mr. Dominic said.

Participants would also be taught international sign language, allowing them to communicate with each other in addressing issues related to human rights, health, and basic management.

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