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FODSWA wants Sign Language to be considered as an Official Language

Eswatini Daily News
By: Nomzamo Jiyane
29 September 2021

The Federation Organization of the Disabled in Swaziland is considering sign language as an official language in Eswatini. The organization recognizes the month of September as Deaf Awareness month.

Sign language is a right not a privilege and is a language of first line of the communication for deaf people. The strengthening of inter-sectoral collaboration between the government and the deaf community will make  Eswatini one of the countries that provides for deaf people’s communication in their own local language.

The President of FODSWA Sipho Dlamini in an interview said “ the recognition of sign language will accelerate and deepen full inclusion of sign language as a linguistic and cultural right of deaf people through which they can participate on an equal basis with others”.

The officialization of sign language in Eswatini is premised on the “Leave no one behind” principle which is the central, transformative promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals.

Many years of extensive consultation with the deaf community has culminated in the call to action for our government and civil society to come together to pledge their commitment to the principle of multilingualism and social cohesion to benefit the deaf community.

Dlamini stated that the organization is having a long and hard struggle to get sign language to be recognized in government- in all it’s sectors and society at large. He emphasized that it is important to consider legislating and regulating sign language by declaring it as an official language. By doing so, it will assist deaf people  to access services, information and education with ease and in the language that they understand.

“As an official language, sign language will have a spectacular legal status and opportunity to be used officially in the whole country, government, the courts, parliament and all administrative branches”, Dlamini narrated. He concluded by saying that the deaf community faces disproportionate high level of poverty, lack of access to education, health services/care, employment and is under represented in decision making. Persons with deaf condition encounter multiple barriers to participation in all sectors of life on a daily basis. To improve the welfare of the deaf community, the nation has to incorporate sign language into everyday communication. Dlamini urged the whole nation to join hands in raising the awareness on the challenges of life faced by the deaf.

“The World Federation of the Deaf estimates that there are 72 million deaf people in the world of whom 80% live in developing countries. Currently, only 41 countries around the world have recognized sign language as an official language.”

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