For deaf people in Rwanda, despite many years of discrimination and exclusion, there are many positive stories coming out in recent years. These are stories of exciting projects and initiatives, and of people standing up for their rights.
There are a number of strong advocates and champions among Rwanda’s deaf community and we would like to feature some of their stories and achievements in this post.
Brown Niyonsaba, now a staff member at VSO Rwanda, worked for several years as a volunteer supporting the rights of other deaf young people. She is featured in the video below, which describes the Imbere Heza (“Brighter Future”) project that is advocating for young deaf people to access sexual and reproductive health services:
In the creative world, Diane Hirwa is an artist who is also deaf that was also featured in the New Times in 2016 and her story can be read here. Please read also the story of the soon-to-be-opened Mime restaurant, which will be staffed entirely by deaf people here.
The Rwanda National Union for the Deaf (RNUD) is working tirelessly to support deaf people throughout the country and its work was featured in a short video below describing a project supported by UNDP in Huye in the Southern part of the country.
Working closely with RNUD is also the Rwanda National Association of Deaf Women (RNADW) and both are members of the National Union of Disability Organisations of Rwanda (NUDOR), who act as an umbrella for the Disability Rights movement in Rwanda with the powerful slogan “Together We Stand.”
These organisations, alongside many individuals, have been advocating for Rwanda Sign Language (RSL) to be given the status of a national language and they hope this will be passed into law in the near future, so that all children may learn RSL at school. Read about the campaign here as well as the parallel project of developing a comprehensive Rwanda Sign Language dictionary, which can be read about here.
We salute the efforts of so many organisations and individuals who are working tirelessly to ensure the rights of all deaf people are realised and that give hope to many deaf people that they are firmly on the road to full inclusion in the Rwandan society.