Technology has given deaf girls a voice and created more visibility for them.

Regina Afanwi Young
Posted October 19, 2021 from Cameroon

“At our Empowerment workshop we not only equip deaf girls with livelihood skills but also empower them on how to use digital tools to create more visibility for their produce. Technology has become their voices reducing the communication gap for consumers who do not understand sign language.”

All thanks to digital tools I am able to go about my daily businesses more easily. From my home am able to connect with these amazing group of women “World Pulse” who have become an important source of motivation and inspiration for me. Thank you, my World Pulse family. Am able to attend online international conferences and meetings while facilitating as presenters in some, attend courses and trainings online that has had a very positive impact in the work I do, pay my utility bills, transfer money locally and internationally when need be. In connection to my business, am able to shop online and get the goods delivered to my home and am able to learn new designs and sell more of my beaded sandals online on a daily basis. In fact, life has become much easier with the use of digital tools.

While I have the opportunities, resources and have acquired knowledge on how to use technology to give more value to the work I do and to make life more easy many girls in my community especially the girls with hearing impairment and other vulnerable girls with disabilities are not empowered with these skills and knowledge. Some of them who have struggled to acquire digital tools use them to pose on Facebook only but do not know that they can also use them to look for empowerment opportunities online which will improve on their livelihood. Also, in our Africa context people with disabilities suffer a lot of stigma as most families, caregivers and communities feel that they are no good and wouldn’t waste money empowering or purchasing digital tools for these girls. Getting money to be able to purchase internet connection is also a major problem. Some of these girls suffer a lot of harassment online That is why I am totally committed and passionate in getting girls especially the girls with hearing impairment with whom I work on a daily basis more engaged in using digital tools.

My organization, Association for the Empowerment of the Deaf and Vulnerable Persons, (AEDVP) have been extremely engaged in educating these girls with whom we work on the rights of persons with disabilities especially focusing on their rights as girls in all aspects of life. We have Organized digital trainings in collaboration with other world pulse sisters, collaborating organizations with the same objectives, one on one trainings in our empowerment center and in the communities on how to use technology to advocate for their rights. We are also training them on how to sell their produce online with the knowledge acquired from the trainings, with the

Our goal at our empowerment center is not only to equip deaf and Vulnerable girls with disabilities with livelihood skills but to raise role models and leaders who will be able to positively impact their communities using technology. We teach them how to use their phones to sell their produce such as beaded sandals, powdered soap, bed sheets and other products using tech tools such as Facebook and WhatsApp status especially as many people cannot communicate with them using sign language. We teach them how to stick price tags on the products and advertise online. Customers who do not understand sign language can use text to bargain and buy their products. most of them have become  more self- reliant  financially and incidences of gender based violence on them have reduced. community perceptions about them have changed positively as people can see them posting online. Technology has become their voices reducing the communication gap for consumers who do not understand sign language as they can use text to communicate effectively with them. Technology has made their business more inclusive.

 These girls also use video apps such as Facebook messenger to communicate with other deaf persons. Initially most of them had to use my computer and phone to do all these but lately some of them have been able to acquire their own Android phones and are helping their deaf peers. Also selling online has increased visibility of their products as they have a wider audience.

We also tech these girls how to access educational opportunities, meetings, trainings online and connect with other people with and without disabilities in other areas. I will be forever grateful to the #sheTranformTec featured changemaker that motivated me to launch an initiative on world Pulse on enhancing the economic empowerment of deaf girls using digital tools. All thanks to this initiative I was listed amongst the 21 women leaders to watch in 2021 because they are using technology to impact their community.

The importance of technology on these girls with hearing impairment during the covid19 lock down and coupled with the sociopolitical crises cannot be over emphasized as sales of these products was their only source of livelihood. Although it was almost impossible to have face on meetings, we created a WhatsApp group during which we continued to share challenges, successes, exchange information, opportunities and carry out basic training. These groups were able to accommodate a wider audience thus bringing many more deaf girls together and many more acquired these Knowledge. This is the beauty of technology and the positive impact it can have on many more girls if given the digital empowerment opportunities they need.

Harassment and violence online are always a big call for concern. I have experienced some form of this violence but thank goodness I have had some online training on digital safety use which I constantly discussed with the girls with whom I work. I use a password made up of words, numbers and characters to make it stronger, change my password when I suspect hacking, always sign out after using any online application, not accepting friendship request from people I don’t know, avoiding sites that will expose me to gender-based violence and not exposing my personal information online just to name a few.

The presence of the covid19 coupled with socioeconomic crisis in our context has made more people realize the major role technology plays in our lives, I have become even more passionate to bring this knowledge to many more girls with disabilities. It has motivated and inspired more people to want to acquire skills on how to effectively use technology to function every day.

I recommend digital education and empowerment for girls especially those with any form of disability or Vulnerability, should be taken more seriously by individuals, caregivers, family members, community members and the government. They should not only train these girls but provide them with digital tools especially smart phones that can easily be used by them and also suitable with their disability type. Good and affordable internet should be provided at all time. In so doing technology will make life easier and better for every single girl including our girls living with hearing impairment and disabilities as a whole.

This story was submitted in response to Day of the Girl: Our Digital Future.

Comments 23

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megsmueller
Oct 19
Oct 19

Hi Regina sister. Thank you for this intriguing piece. You are such a hard worker all in the name of empowering a sister through technology. This is precious. Technology as a means of marketing, it proves to be a safer and more effective platform for the female entrepreneur.

All the best to you and much love my sister.

Regina Afanwi Young
Oct 19
Oct 19

Dear Megs. How are you doing my dear? Thanks so much for your kind and beautiful words of encouragement and motivation. It's truly amazing how technology is helping the girls with hearing impairment Bridge the communication gap. I hope you are doing well dear sis.
Lots of love from far away Cameroon!!
Hugs*** Regina

megsmueller
Oct 20
Oct 20

Hi Regina
I am well dear, hope you are too. Greetings and love from S.A! xxxx Hugs to you too.

Regina Afanwi Young
Oct 20
Oct 20

Thanks dear sis

Olanike Adesanya
Oct 19
Oct 19

Technology is it, that can break language and disability barriers...
Kudos to you Regina.
You're doing well,
Please keep bit up.

Regina Afanwi Young
Oct 19
Oct 19

Thanks so much for your kind words dear sister!!

maeann
Oct 19
Oct 19

Hi Regina,

How I wish that there is an organization who can include in their budget a digital tools like smart phone and net to person with disability so that they will not be left behind. It would be a great help for them to boost their self-esteem and improve themselves.

Regina Afanwi Young
Oct 19
Oct 19

Great thoughts lovely sis. Thank you for being so compassionate. I wish same my dear. Hope you are doing great!!

megsmueller
Oct 20
Oct 20

Love the ideas. Imagine too if ALL education departments could out rule written exams? Or if curriculums could be offered to the child as though they are watching a movie? I'm probably taking it too far LOL but I almost think I've seen it/heard about it and kids were excelling. Art and sports could remain a practical endeavor.

Okay, enough of this, I'm slipping back into reality now.

Much love to you ladies and all the best to you. Thank you, always, for your meaningful write ups. I appreciate them all.

Jill Langhus
Oct 20
Oct 20

Great post, Bavi, dear:-) You rock, for being such a trooper with all you're going through, for all the hard work you still do, and for continuing to inspire every one. Keep up the great job, and know that I'll always be here for you, and that you absolutely are enough, and do enough:-) XX

Grace Iliya
Oct 20
Oct 20

Great piece, this is a very unique path. With technology these girl's future is so bright and thank you for all that you do.

Much love

Regina Afanwi Young
Oct 20
Oct 20

Thanks so much for your kind words dear sister

What a very good job sis. I am so overwhelmed with the job you are doing in our community. Only persons like you would do what is necessary for those children with disabilities and some few others. All left to our government, the don't care and some of their family members.
Thanks so much for the great job my sister and more strength to it.
Love you.

Regina Afanwi Young
Oct 21
Oct 21

Thank you so much sis. Love you too

Deborahajala1
Oct 21
Oct 21

This is amazing.

You're doing a great job giving the deaf girls a voice through technology.

I'm simply blown away by what you do and this shows that nothing is impossible once you desire it and have the right tools.

Regina Afanwi Young
Oct 21
Oct 21

Thanks for your kind words dear sis. Sending hugs

himani deswal
Oct 22
Oct 22

yes so true, how much it helped them to explore the different things and learn and feel empower

Regina Afanwi Young
Oct 24
Oct 24

Thanks for your kind words sis

Duru Edith
Oct 24
Oct 24

This is a great work you're doing for these girls. The fact that their confidence, self worth and financial liberty is attained is such a great achievement. Technology is truly a powerful tool when maximized.
Your sisters at Worldpulse are proud of you

Regina Afanwi Young
Oct 24
Oct 24

Thanks for your kind words of encouragement dear sister

Tamarack Verrall
Oct 24
Oct 24

Dear Regina,
Your work is astounding and so important. With all you have described in detail, you give us all the information we need to work toward this level of service for all deaf and vulnerable people everywhere, as as you have done, making sure the women and girls are not forgotten. You are such an amazing and inspired leader.

Regina Afanwi Young
Oct 24
Oct 24

Thanks so much Mama Tam. Your comments are always so motivating. You always inspire me to do more. You are an Amazing and inspiring Leader too mama Tan. Thank you for always being you.
Hope you are having a great weekend sis.
Sending so much love from far away Cameroon

LMNGraves
Nov 02
Nov 02

Hi Regina, This is fascinating! I love your work. As a technologist, I am fascinated that you are leveraging technology to enhance economic empower for death girls. You ROCK!!! All the best to you and continued success.