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Deaf young people have their say

Published Date: 09 Jan 2023

Young people around the world are making their voices heard about the issues that matter to them the most. On subjects such as climate change, it is often young people who are leading the protests.

We know that deaf young people are no exception. Future leaders are passionate about the change they want to see in the world around them and are having their say. However, because of barriers usually relating to language and communication, deaf children and young people can find it harder to express their views, even about the issues which matter to them the most.

Our partner Child In Need Institute (CINI) recently ran an initiative called ‘Talk to Your Mayor Uncle’.* Held in the Council Chamber, where the Mayor holds meetings with elected representatives, CINI children and young people interacted directly with the Mayor of Kolkta, Firhad Hakim.

Five deaf young people took part, raising three different issues of inclusion. They asked for Indian Sign Language interpreters in schools and other institutions; for deaf children and children with other disabilities to be identified as early as possible, and for the number of traffic signals to be increased and made disability-friendly.

The Mayor has already agreed to include Indian Sign Language symbols in relevant areas to make the council chamber more accessible for deaf people. This meeting was captured on video which you can watch here.

CINI also recently facilitated the participation of urban disadvantaged children to take their concerns to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. A deaf young man called Mohammad Danish who is in Grade X (Year 11 in UK schools) raised a question to the UN regarding the impact of climate crisis on child rights. CINI also organised a discussion with the UN where Danish and another deaf young person brought up the negative effects of pollution.

In a letter to the young people, Najat Maalla M’jid, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children said:

‘‘I know you are at the forefront of actions, and I want to leave you with one message: Don’t stop! Continue doing what you are doing. Please don’t give up. The world needs you, so together, we can make it safer, healthier, more just and inclusive.’’

* In India, a child calling an adult ‘uncle’ is used to show respect but with an element of informality. The principle behind this initiative is to make elected officials more accessible to the communities they represent.