My vision is to greatly reduce gender-based violence through economic empowerment programs which are greatly enhanced with the use of technology (digital tools)
Through our work in the community and interactions with women and girls especially those living with hearing impairment and other forms of disabilities, it is very evident that most women with disabilities lack access to livelihood activities that would enable them cater for their basic needs, this is partly due to harmful African traditional norms and myths about disabilities.
This lack of financial resources and dependence on others increase their likelihood of experiencing higher levels and more severe forms of gender-based violence such as sexual assault and rape. There is also limited or a complete lack of knowledge on technology and the use of digital tools.
As the CEO of Association for the Empowerment of the deaf and Vulnerable Persons (AEDVP) I am working with these women and girls on a daily bases, I finds it relevant to economically empower them. Although I launched an initiative to enhance economic empowerment of this category of persons using digital tools, I plan to acquire more skills in this and also introduce this program to many more deaf and vulnerable persons with whom I am working now as a way of reducing this dependency thus reducing or eliminating gender-based violence.
In the community I am continuously carrying out awareness raising especially at the level of families accommodating women and girls with disabilities on issues related to gender-based violence (Types of Gender Based Violence, Causes, Prevention and available services survivors could access).
I have also done a needs assessment for women and girls living with disabilities on their skill development needs and also trained some women and girls on the use of digital tools such as WhatsApp status and Facebook to sell their produce.
There is an ever-increasing need for skill development for women with disabilities taking into consideration that it’s an important tool used to fight gender-based violence. There is also urgent need to equip more girls and women with disabilities on how to use digital tools to sell their produce.
After several failed attempts to get persons with hearing impairment enrolled at the Bamenda women empowerment center and taking into consideration my post pandemic Vision I decided to start an empowerment center for these persons where their special communication needs (Sign language interpretation) will be met. This Centre caters for women and girls with hearing impairment and any other category of disabilities and vulnerability. At the Centre, the girls and women acquire skills such as production of beaded sandals and slippers, reusable pads, face masks, liquid solid soap and rubbing oil, fascinators, and snacks. They also gain interior decoration skills. Training on the use of technology to access the internet is also being done.
When I started empowering these girls with these skills about 4 years ago, I was worried about getting a market for the products they made especially because sign language is a barrier in communication. Then the socio-political crises
started and slowed down the economy of the country. It was becoming
very dangerous for them to go about selling their produce. The Covid19
pandemic made the situation worse as there were constant lockdowns
imposed in addition to existing ones brought by the crisis.
I remain very grateful to World Pulse for the feature change maker
program that was introduced from the trainings we received. I launched
an initiative on enhancing economic empowerment of deaf and vulnerable
persons using technology. Through this initiative, I have trained and impacted so many women and Girls with hearing impairment who act as trainers to other persons with disability on how to use labels on their products and sell online Facebook and WhatsApp. I have also made relevant inputs in workshops organized by other collaborators with the same objectives. I conduct online follow-up and trainings via WhatsApp groups and so many persons with disability have gained knowledge on the safe and proper use of
technology which can be applied in their context.
For the women, technology has also been very impactful. It has enables
them to search for more designs and seek ways to improve the quality of
their products. It has also enabled them to market their products and
more visibility improves the sales. Also, more customer relationships have
been created online irrespective of whether they have a disability or not.
Most of these women are now able to save in their village savings and
loan schemes where they meet with other persons without disabilities to
socialize. All this has been made possible by the use of Technological. I
am grateful to World Pulse for all the empowerment workshops and
seminars organized to ensure this initiative is realized.
It’s been truly challenging but an exciting and rewarding experience both personally and professionally but could benefit more women and girls with hearing impairment and disabilities if everyone gets on board to ensure this vision of economically empowering more women with income generation skills and technological tools is realize.
Government, civil society and all stakeholders of disabilities should provide more support with assistive technology to compensate different impairments and which are specifically suitable for the different types of disabilities.
They should also we also provide more empowerment on techniques to effectively use technology. Financial and material support is also needed to provide startup capital and to train more persons with disabilities to be able to use technological tools to enhance economic empowerment. This will be a sure way of reducing or completely eliminating gender-based violence.