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Thursday, October 29, 2020

Deaf Woman Empowers Peers

Chiedza Farirai Hukuimwe educates rural deaf women in formal sign language

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Tafadzwa Mwanengureni
Tafadzwa Mwanengureni
I am a student journalist at Harare Polytechnic majoring in print journalism

ZIMBABWE. Marondera. Not only physically able, rich people have the ability to empower and support others, especially those with disabilities. Those who have disabilities also have the capability to stand their ground in support of those around them and empower their peers.

Visiting rural areas

Chiedza Farirai Hukuimwe, a 26-year-old solo deaf woman, is working tirelessly to educate and raise awareness for the rights of people with disabilities, mainly deaf people in Marondera’s rural areas. Marondera’s rural areas are outside the city itself, which is in Mashonaland East.

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Despite the endless challenges she faces in reaching the rural areas surrounding Marondera, she strives to educate rural deaf women in formal sign language. She travels randomly in search of deaf women. In an interview with Transcontinental Times she says, “When l reach at the bus stop l walk for long with no idea of where l can possibly find them.” She continues, “Communication with fellow rural deaf girls is difficult because they have never learned formal sign language.” Both finding the women and communicating with them is incredibly difficult.

Consequences of informal education

“Many are victims of rape, but they fail to report because they are unable to communicate with the police,” Hukuimwe states. She continues by pointing out that, “They are also unaware of their rights.”

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Hukuimwe said she encountered a situation of an unreported case of a 15-year-old girl’s rape where she was unable to report it due to the communication barrier. Hukuimwe believes that through her efforts, rural deaf women will be able to report injustices using formal sign language in the future. “Now they have a little [more] understanding than before”, she said.

Sadly, amongst people with disabilities, the deaf group is the most marginalized as many fail to further their education due to communication difficulties.

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They only have hand-working skills and they compete for job opportunities with physically abled people. Often, deaf people lose the battle due to the lack of effective verbal communication.

This has resulted in the majority of the deaf population in Zimbabwe resorting to street vending in an effort to earn a living. However, those in rural areas are often victims of rape and forced marriage. Thus, Hukuimwe is fighting for justice and advocating for the right to educate people with disabilities.

A deaf 15-year-old rape victim breastfeeding her child. Photo Credit: Chiedza Hukuimwe

COVID-19 regulations and lack of money prevent Hukuimwe from helping

Due to lockdown, she is unable to visit rural areas every day and the closure of the informal sector and transport limits her to travel as she will be struggling to raise fares.

In addition, lack of financial back up is limiting her passion for helping a large number of deaf women. Hukuimwe told Transcontinental Times that she needs donor support to further her ambition. Currently, she is teaching a 10-year-old she took from a rural area early this month. “I want to help many deaf, but l can’t afford [to do so] individually…I want to approach donors for assistance”, she said. Unfortunately, she is unable to approach the donor organization physically due to lockdown and data costs are too expensive for her to apply online.

However, she is convinced that her mission can be possible as she has much exposure. She recently worked with different organizations including the Ministry of Health, where she taught sign language. She also competed and was crowned Miss Deaf Zimbabwe 2017, but low funding led her to quit the game.

Doing projects to raise donations

Hukuimwe is a multi-talented person. Sewing, farming, and hair plaiting skills are among her many talents. Gardening and plaiting hair are her current sources of income. “I sell my garden produce in villages. I also plait all hairstyles at my saloon which is outside our home yard,” she continues by saying, “l managed to help a few with food, clothes as well as books and pens.”

Huhuimwe teaching a 10-year-old girl a sign for free. Photo Credit: Hukuimwe

Moreover, Hukuimwe yearns to further her education so that she attains supportive skills. “It is my desire to accommodate rural girls at my house while going to school…I also need proper education on how to take care of people with disabilities,” she added. Yet again, monetary difficulties prevent her from making the impact she hopes to.

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