When stubbornness pays off

By: Johnny Baltzersen 

Stubbornness is a wildly underrated trait. The ‘7 stubbornnesses’ have even been researched and written about.

Whether ‘CICED stubbornness’ is one of the seven, we can’t say. But it works.

In the summer of 2019, three CICED board members were in Tanzania to start planning a new collaboration with our two partners, CHAVITA, the Deaf organization and TASLI, the Association of Sign Language Interpreters.

A lot of good ideas came out of it, but they went in too many directions. Twice we had designed a larger project application for a collaboration with both CHAVITA and TASLI. But in both cases, we eventually had to scrap the draft. It didn’t add up.

If we couldn’t squeeze a collaboration with both Tanzanian partners under the same hat, we could make two separate applications. As they say, it’s done.

CISU has just approved a medium-term project with CHAVITA. TASLI has recently been under new management, so a project is still in its infancy.

Boosting Sign Language as the Language of the Deaf in Tanzania is the short and sweet title of our new 18-month project with CHAVITA.

It’s fairly trite to point out that without sign language and sign language interpreting, deaf people are largely excluded from participation in most things. In Tanzania, depending on sources and counting methods, there are around 800,000 deaf and severely hard of hearing people.

Tanzania has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and since 2010 the country has had its own very fine supplementary legislation. Unfortunately, the legislation is largely unknown outside of very narrow circles.

The division of tasks between different authorities and levels in Tanzania’s public sector requires local authorities, corresponding to Danish regions and municipalities, to ensure compliance with both the convention and national legislation.

Studies have shown that virtually no local authorities are aware of either the Convention or the relevant Tanzanian legislation. There’s no money for the job either.

This is the situation that the new CICED-CHAVITA collaboration will try to change. The whole of Tanzania cannot be turned around to work towards deaf rights in 18 months. That’s why we start with an intensive effort in the three regions: Mtwara in the south, Tanga in the north and Dodoma in the central part of the country.

The Dodoma district also includes the city of the same name, formally the country’s capital since 1996. Although many government offices and embassies have remained in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s president, prime minister and parliament are based in Dodoma. CHAVITA has good local offices in both Mtwara and Tanga.

Before the project ends, lessons learned from the three pilot districts will be translated into a national campaign plan to promote the real right and access of deaf people to use sign language and sign language interpretation in conversation and collaboration with public authorities and Tanzanian society as a whole.

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