Fri | Apr 19, 2019

Self-defence lessons for deaf women

Published:Sunday | March 18, 2018 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris
Interpreter Antoinette Aiken (centre) having a conversation with Nicola Foster (left), deaf coach, at the official launch of a programme to teach deaf women how to defend themselves.
From left: Kimberley Sherlock,executive director, Jamaica Association for the Deaf, with Jaz Mann, head of global programmes, Deaf Kidz International, and Antoinette Aiken, interpreter, at the official launch of a programme to teach deaf women how to defend themselves.

With increasing reports of attacks on female members of Jamaica's deaf community, efforts are being made to provide them with the means of defending themselves.

"We know from anecdotal data, or working on the ground, and from discussions with schools, social services, (that) it is a problem that we need to address," said Kimberley Sherlock, executive director of the Jamaica Association for the Deaf (JAD), during the official launch of a project to equip deaf women to counteract abuse at the University of the West Indies Regional Headquarters on Thursday.

"Any disability researcher will let you know that disabled women are twice as vulnerable as they are women and they are disabled. Adding to this is the significant challenge for the deaf community when taking into consideration the issues of communication access," added Sherlock.




The programme will see the training of 20 women from the community in self-defence techniques such as martial arts.

Those trained are expected to coach other deaf women to defend themselves and to empower those who might be victims of abuse to seek help.

The women are being trained under the Signing Safe Futures Jamaica project, which was initiated by the JAD in collaboration with Deaf Kidz International and the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation.

Sherlock said that while violence against women has been increasingly recognised as a public-health issue, a violation of human rights and a barrier to economic development, there is no empirical data available to suggest how widespread the issue is in the deaf community.

She said the project provides an opportunity to collect data that might help in the development of policies and to raise awareness.

Head of global programme for Deaf Kidz International, Jaz Mann, said his organisation has been working with several partners to counteract the abuse of those in the deaf community on a global level.

"In Zimbabwe, they chop your hands off because they don't want you to use sign language. In Pakistan, they set deaf girls on fire because the arranged marriages are unable to go forward because nobody wants a deaf girl," said Mann.

In addition to being trained in martial arts, the 20 women have been trained to use dance as a means of expression and are being taught how they can champion the cause to reduce gender-based violence.

Project manager for Signing Safe Futures Jamaica, Chantell Robinson, said that the women have already completed five weeks of training.

"Our workshops are really aimed at increasing knowledge, building awareness, and giving the coaches an idea of where to go when they have a problem relating to gender-based violence, or if they know someone who has encountered or experienced gender-based violence," said Robinson.