WFD and WFDYS represented at the National Conference on Deaf Youth, Human Rights Leadership and Advocacy in India

WFD Vice President Dr Joseph Murray, WFDYS President Ms Cecilia Hanhikoski and WFDYS Vice Mr President Mark Berry
at the closing of a successful National Conference on Deaf Youth,Human Rights and Leadership . New Delhi India

Representatives from the WFD and WFDYS Boards were in New Delhi, India, from 27 February to 1 March 2017 for the National Conference on Deaf Youth, Human Rights Leadership and Advocacy. The event invitation was received from the WFD Associate Member, the National Association of the Deaf of India (NAD).

Dr Joseph Murray, WFD Vice-President, Ms Cecilia Hanhikoski, WFDYS President, and Mr Mark Berry, WFDYS Vice-President, were honoured to attend the conference, which hosted 300 participants of varying ages from different parts of India, including 25 female participants. The conference had a strong focus on deaf youth as well as female empowerment, especially with the presence of Ms Hanhikoski.

At the conference, Ms Hanhikoski and Mr Berry delivered presentations. They also conducted a workshop on human rights for deaf youth and the work of the WFDYS. In addition, important themes pertaining to the WFDYS were raised, and it was encouraging to see many motivated young deaf Indians – the future leaders of the Deaf Community at the conference.

Ms Hanhikoski said, “It is important to the WFDYS to see how deaf youth in India are being empowered and engaged in their own movements. Our Deaf Community needs people of all ages. Together, we are stronger and we can make changes.”

Supporting the Deaf Community and cultivating ties in India

Indian Deaf Community

In recent years, the WFD has supported the Deaf Community and organisations in India via its advocacy with the Indian government on the following issues: the autonomy of the Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre (ISLRTC) in 2015, as well as the proper terminology to describe the Deaf Community in India’s Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, and the Deaf Community’s right to obtain driving licenses, both in 2016. The WFD is encouraged that these relentless advocacy efforts, which included letters of support, have been successful. The ISLRTC is now led by deaf and deaf-related organisations which support the use of sign language, and the government has agreed to the use of the terms ‘Deaf’ and ‘Hard of Hearing’ in its relevant legislation.

India’s Minister of Labour and Employment Bandaru Dattatreya
at a conference organized by the Telangana Association of the Deaf in Hyderabad, India.
Credit: Press Information Bureau. Government of India.

Continuing WFD’s engagement in India, Dr Murray attended a conference in Hyderabad where he met India’s Minister of Labour and Employment, as well as representatives from the local Deaf Clubs and Deaf Sports Clubs in the Varanashi area.

In New Delhi, the WFD and WFDYS had meetings with the NAD and WFD’s Ordinary Member, the All India Federation of the Deaf (AIFD). They discussed issues related to co-operation between the organisations for the betterment of the Indian Deaf Community, which numbers 18 million deaf people. Other topical issues were the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Dr Murray said, “We presented the WFD Position Paper on the Language Rights of Deaf Children, and discussed the need for sign language access for deaf children and their families at the earliest age possible. This information was well received.”

He also foresaw a bright future ahead and praised India’s “strong organisations and good people who seek to mobilise the community behind clear goals”.


By Anne Sjöroos and Alvan Yap