Signal and Signhealth Uganda are excited to launch a project conceived by deaf young people to open up livelihood opportunities for such young people this World Disability Day. This pilot project is made possible by funding from the Big Lottery Fund’s East Africa Disability Fund.
Deaf and hearing impaired young people are among the most marginalised members of the population in Uganda, which has one of the youngest populations in the world. Negative attitudes and behaviours towards deaf people in society can hold back their progress in life from an early age. They face communication challenges and low expectations, poor schooling and low self-confidence.
Our experience with our partner Signhealth Uganda is that this combination of limited communication skills, education and confidence badly harms deaf young people’s chances of getting a job or of starting up an enterprise and so earning their own living. Equally, many deaf young people lack the qualifications to enter vocational training centres and the connections to gain work experience.
Our new project will work with over 100 deaf and hearing impaired young people over the coming year to help them to gain the trade skills they need to live independent lives. It will work in six urban and rural districts of the Greater Masaka area of Central Uganda and the West Nile Sub-Region of Northern Uganda. The districts in West Nile include the Bidibidi and Palorinya refugee settlements.
The ideas for this pilot project originate from deaf young people themselves, and potential participants in the Central and Northern regions have taken part in focus group discussions to inform the design of the project. It will work with both deaf young women and young men who are not in formal education.
The participants will get the opportunity to take up a work placement with a local company or artisan in fields such as hair and beauty, baking and confectionery, eco-friendly paper and sanitary products, tailoring, metal working and welding and paving. They will receive vocational training, mentoring and hands-on experience through their work placement, as well as training in enterprise and finance skills.
Some of the local businesses which are set to be involved include deaf role models. Staff from all of the host businesses will take part in workshops on deaf awareness and communication methods, including basic sign language. The involvement of business people, as well as community leaders and agencies, in the project should foster more positive attitudes towards deafness and disability.
Our project aims to equip disadvantaged deaf young people with the skills, experience and self-belief to improve their chances of getting a job or of starting up an income generating activity, either individually or as part of a cooperative with their deaf peers. Upon completing their work placement, the young people will receive a certificate to show to potential employers and a relevant start-up kit.
Those seeking to start up an income generating activity will be supported to register with a locally regulated Savings and Credit Cooperative Organisation which enables members to save and re-invest their earnings. The project will also engage with Community Development Officers to support the deaf young people to bid for government youth livelihood loans or disability grants.
This pilot builds on some of Signal and Signhealth Uganda’s work helping parent support groups – and deaf youth on an ad hoc basis – to start up income generating activities, as well as some of Signal’s work with partners in Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia. We hope the learning from this project will enable us to open up better livelihood opportunities for even more deaf young people in the future.
Headline photograph: deaf young women getting into hairdressing in Central Uganda.