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My craft workmanship has been a journey of improved livelihood, healing and resilience for deaf girls and I

‘‘Our organization is using craft not only to improve livelihood but also as a source of healing and resilience for deaf girls and myself’.

My organization has become a ray of hope for deaf girls by teaching them craft skills as a source of livelihood, healing, and resilience. It’s been five horrible years for us in the two English speaking Regions of Cameroon because of the sociopolitical crisis. Women with disabilities have been the most affected. As a result, most have lost their source of livelihood, internally displaced, experienced severe gender-based violence of one form or the other. The situation has been worsened by the COVID19 pandemic. Life has become so hard for these persons. Additionally, these deaf persons have suffered double vulnerability due to sign language barriers, which also makes it difficult for them to have access to vocational training opportunities. I was super excited and hopeful when our own World Pulse sister Veronica announced during our monthly meeting of the North West Association of Women with Disabilities about the tuition free opportunity for women and girls with disabilities at the Women Empowerment Center. I watched her with so much joy as she encouraged all the women to make use of this God given opportunity that had come up after so many years of advocating for the

rights of women and girls with disabilities. I was particularly overjoyed because I saw this as an avenue to get as many girls with hearing impairment as possible to get empowered. Some of these girls come from very poor home backgrounds where they cannot not afford to pay for skill development. Others suffered a lot of stigmas from their parents and caregivers who still believed in the myth that persons with disabilities are no good and won’t spend their money on them. Some girls had experienced gender-based

violence due to financial dependency on their perpetrators. This opportunity will enhance my organization’s objective of total inclusion and participation, as well as my burning desire to improve their livelihood. I also know that they will be healed from all the psychological and mental trauma, as well as the discrimination they had to go through because of their disability.

The news about this development had spread to the deaf community and they were really happy someone had started listening to them. In less than no time, I received messages from them about some of the skills they were very interested in developing. Most of them expressed the desire to learn beaded sandals, slippers and necklaces. They also delegated one of their peers to go with me to the empowerment center to obtain more information. My idea was they should participate in whatever they decided; that would guarantee total inclusion. To our greatest surprise our hopes were shattered when we got to the empowerment center.

We both walked into the Women Empowerment Center feeling very hopeful. I introduced myself and interpreted as my dear friend introduced herself. As we tried to inquire about the information on the training opportunity, she stood up and categorically told us in a strong voice,” We can’t admit girls with hearing impairment in this empowerment center”.  My heart hurt as I reluctantly interpreted that particular sentence. We felt like we were judged based on our disability rather than our abilities and talents. What seemed to be our only hope had been taken away. For a moment I thought about all the girls and women out there who had been looking forward to this opportunity and how much they will be inflicted when we give them the feedback. I wasn’t ready to give up so easily so I asked the Lady why deaf girls could not be trained in the center and she replied, “because they don’t have the resources”. Then I told her I could arrange with my sign language interpreter colleague to take turns to help out. I was shocked when she said “Madame it’s overwhelming working with these kind of women”. Can you imagine how I felt as I interpreted that statement to my dear friend? We both left the center with a heavy heart. I struggled not to let my friend see my tears rolling down. I gave her a big hug as a way of reassuring her that all hopes were not lost. For the purpose of empowering as many deaf girls and women as possible, I

had this great inspiration that I could empower myself with crafting skills. As a result, I enrolled for beaded shoes training and learned the basic skills on producing them. The more I had this burning desire to empower these girls, the more I became creative. Additionally, I got different color blends from birds, flowers, fabrics, paintings, my environment and online. With time I also acquired skills on making beaded necklaces, earrings and bangles. Today I run a nonprofit organization called Association for the Empowerment of the Deaf and Vulnerable Persons (AEDFP) where we are training deaf girls on these craft productions.

Through these craft works, my organization has built self confidence in the girls we have trained and given startup capital for their businesses. The feeling of exclusion has greatly reduced in some of them as they have trained other girls who are not deaf. That has worked positively on their self-esteem, making them have the lovely feeling of contentment. They have also had so much healing from the fact that they can express themselves to the world through the different designs and different color blends. It has contributed to making them being very resilient too.

Personally, I have had so many challenges lately that most of my world pulse sisters are aware of; the sociopolitical crisis is still on and the impact of COVID19 is still there, my husband in jail for about 18 months, my mother in-law very sick and living with me, my father passed on 3months ago and my father-in-law too, and many more happening in just a short period of time, but I continue to remain focused and resilient. Thanks to these beautiful creativity skills that have given me so much healing. Producing complex designs require a lot of concentration and color blend appreciation, which is also very therapeutic as it tilts my mind from worries to appreciating the beautiful works of my hands!! Above all these colors have a different impact on me and to whoever is putting it on. Example red gives me a feeling of excitement, passion, positive energy and is able to provoke strong emotions in me and orange gives the feeling of freedom, success, creativity, and happiness, Yellow makes me feel optimistic, cheerful, and calm, Blue gives me a feeling of trustworthiness, gentleness and compassionate. What an amazing feeling of healing working with many more colors I have not mentioned here. Above all I appreciate nature more now and see beauty in everything especially as it’s my greatest source of designs.

  • Arts & Culture
    • Africa
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