Deaf people in Malawi are working to increase the number of sign
language interpreters. There are only eleven of them in Malawi – not
nearly enough to meet the needs of the country’s 50,000
hearing-impaired people. Juliana Mwase is the chairperson for
the Malawi National Association of the Deaf (MANAD). Speaking through
interpreter Bettie Wisiki, Mwase says interpreters are essential at
churches and at locations of public services, like hospitals, markets,
schools, police offices, courts, and banks.
“There is a lot of
information which is being given to the general public on HIV and AIDS
or any other health-related issues.,” she says.
deaf people [cannot] access information. For instance, a deaf person
may be interested in going for Voluntary Counseling Testing (VCT). That
person cannot communicate with the medical personnel. And how can the
medical personnel counsel that person if he or she is not conversant
with sign language,” she asks.
Mwase says the education sector is also lacking interpreters, "As
of now many countries in the world are advocating for education for all
(EFA) goals by 2015 and even Malawi [is] saying by 2015 education
should be for everyone, including the deaf. But if deaf people are
failing to access what people are saying in class, how can they
achieve EFA goals in Malawi?” she says.
To solve the problem,
Mwase says the Malawi National Association of the Deaf is running a
two-year training program in sign language based on English and the
local language, Chichewa. The Scottish NGO, Deaf Action, is funding
She says the 20 participants include doctors,
teachers, church pastors, businessmen and other individuals from
different places where the deaf go for basic services. Upon
completion, the number of interpreters will increase to 31, which Mwase
says is still far too small. More may be trained, depending on the
availability of donor support.