The final WFD Congress presentations revolved around theme of Human Rights and the relevant United Nations (UN) instruments. WFD board member and plenary presenter, Deborah Oyuu lyute reiterated a key element that has repeatedly surfaced in the week’s presentations: the role that National Associations of the Deaf (NADs) can play in the promotion and development of human rights tools.
Three UN human rights instruments were highlighted: the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD); the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
Although common to many deaf African people, Ms Oyuu lyute drew specific attention to the “double discrimination” faced by many deaf women, whereby “deaf women have difficulty obtaining access to education, to gainful employment, and even to sign language”. Education was emphasized as “the key to empowerment and capacity”. Ms Oyuu lyute went on to say that “it is unrealistic to expect instantaneous change, but a gradual improvement of the quality of life for many deaf women in Africa is achievable with the utilization of the human rights instruments now available”.
The deaf community was encouraged to continue its work in demanding quality education systems for deaf children with appropriate teacher training, and the development of interpreter training programmes and the expansion of competent interpreting services.
Ms Oyuu lyute encouraged NADs to “learn from one another, to see how one another advocates for the human rights of deaf people in their country and to build on those accomplishments”.
Deaf lawyer from the Danish National Social Appeals Board, Helena Christina Gade, presented about the CRPD and suggested figuratively that “it is not possible to build a house with just a hammer; you need an array of tools.” Achieving human rights will require collaboration and initiating projects in common with other disability associations in order to implement the CRPD implemented at a national level.
WFD President, Markku Jokinen reminded everyone of the process of implementing the CRPD. First a nation becomes a signatory, which demonstrates its agreement with the content of the convention. Then a nation ratifies, triggering the process of implementing the convention by changing its domestic laws to fall in line with the articles of the CRDP.
Member of South African Parliament, Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen, then explained the process South Africa undertook to ratify the CRPD. “Our process of ratification took several years but it was ratified by the parliament in November 2007. Now our battle is implementation; it involves bringing Disabled Peoples’ Organisations (DPOs), Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) into the process and determining how various laws can be modified and services expanded.
The media conference concluded with the WFD Congress Organising Committee President Bruno Druchen announcing that registrations were increasing with each day: thus far “2,100 delegates have attended the conference with 125 countries represented.” WFD President Mr. Jokinen then remarked that WFD has 132 national association members and deemed the Congress here in South Africa is a huge success.