A YOUNG Oldham woman is in Kenya as part of a Voluntary Services Overseas' (VSO) drive to change perceptions about young deaf people.

Raabia Hussain, 25, is coming to the end of a three-month placement with the organisation as part of the UK government-funded International Citizen Service (ICS) programme to help teach sign language, work on inclusive employment workshops and drive attitude change.

VSO works in Nandi, Western Kenya to help to overcome the challenges deaf youth face, helping them overcome the odds and achieve equality of opportunity. The project helps to teach Kenyan sign language, increase the awareness of deaf people’s rights and challenge the stigmatisation of deaf people in the household and in the community.

Deaf education in Kenya is plagued by a wide range of challenges. Nearly 90 per cent of deaf individuals who finish their high school education, cannot effectively read and write, attain higher education or find employment. Consequently, a majority of the deaf living in Kenya experience poor socioeconomic outcomes, with many falling into early marriage, teenage pregnancy and, in some cases, crime.

Reflecting on the challenges she has faced as a deaf young woman, Raabia spoke out her experience of growing up deaf.

Raabia, also Deaf UK volunteer, said: “I have been faced with the feeling of being isolated and left out of social interactions - so it can feel very lonely at times and depressing.

“Being Deaf, also means that you worry a lot about what you may have missed or might miss in any conversation or communication so you are on hyper alert which is absolutely exhausting."

Despite these challenges, Raabia is committed to ensuring people see deaf people like her as empowered and as actors of change.

She continued: “We take these added pressures on board because I think, as deaf people, we are determined to show you that we can do the same work as any other person and do it as well, if not better.”

Raabia has shared her experience with deaf Kenyan volunteers in the hope that they can work together to inspire change.

“I felt inspired to do something about it and I could possibly give them some support by helping them,” she said.

“I can empathise with them and offer them my skills, my knowledge that I have gained and ultimately that will then give them the tools to feel empowered and maybe they can then challenge the Government to change their perspective and make it official for deaf rights and equality."