Sunday, March 22, 2009

Deaf in Development

With Project Adviser Euphrasia Mbewe back in Malawi in the second week of March, work began for me. Within the first week I saw how development worked from the coordination and activities to achieve goals/objectives of the project based on Annual Negotiation Meeting (ANM) as agreed between MANAD (Malawi National Association of the Deaf) and FAD (Finnish Association of the Deaf) from December 2008. Ms Mbewe and I poured through survey results as a project activity, to see what the prevalence of deafness, family and societal attitudes around them as a deaf person or with a hearing loss, education and employment barriers if any, their experiences visiting their doctors or hospitals, and other general living conditions they experience. In the survey forms, there is space provided asking what suggestions, priorities that MANAD should focus on (ie sign language instruction, improved access to higher education) and additional comments. They are now being compiled into a report format organized by city or district with recommendations based on United Nations’ Optional Protocol of Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. (The Optional Protocol is for countries that do not have sufficient resources to meet the Convention requirements to incorporate the rights into national legislation). The Articles that the recommendations are based on; Article 31’s Statistics and Data Collection and Article 4’s General Obligation. Article 31 contains three sections that describe the privacy of individuals the data is collected from, the legal safeguards (human rights) with intent to eliminate identified barriers, which the national government is to implement. Article 4’s General Obligations (for Disabled Persons Organizations DPOs to perform in consult capacity) to persuade the government to include DPOs, such as MANAD and FEDOMA as consultants to write policy to ensure the identified barriers are eliminated.

A little fewer than half the survey forms were filled out in English and the rest in either Chichewa or mixture of both English and Chichewa. I complied dozens of results into a format developed by Ms Mbewe grouping the data into year of birth, prevalence of deafness (i.e. at birth, from malaria), their communication experiences at schools, hospitals, place of employment and so on. Ms Mbewe is compiling the Chichewa language survey results to include them in the draft report. Some information we have are from the trips we made to Embangweni and Kasungu back in January. The next trip will be the far north of Malawi, Karonga and Chipita to meet deaf adults there and interview them.

Some mornings and afternoons when the new staff, Executive Director Byson and Administrative Secretary/Accountant Edna is present and available together, Ms Mbewe trains them how to operate an office, the hierarchical structure, how to comply with MANAD Constitution from 1993 and Plan of Action agreed from the ANM, job descriptions. For me, it brought many memories of training I’ve received at New York Society for the Deaf and FEGS back in New York City. Not all that different. Ms Mbewe allowed me to share input from my own experiences in office and management work.

Now that MANAD has an office, two full-time staff (with two vacancies left – Programme Officer and Accountant), the MANAD Board can focus more on governance and manage less. The Board has already approved the activities, budget and policies for this year. The MANAD office staff is to implement and carry out the activities outlined in the Plan of Action agreed between MANAD Board and FAD. Ms Mbewe used training materials from other African countries she was Project Advisor for but they are adjusted slightly according to a national NAD’s needs.

So far, the experience is a very positive one for me. This is even better than case studies back in the graduate classroom, taking it at face value. I am interacting with MANAD staff and Board, observing how they work; and how Ms Mbewe uses the information compiled from the survey, as part of the Organizational Capacity Training regarding living condition awareness of what’s out there and what to expect.


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