Myself and fellow Sign Language Interpreter who is a Coda as well.
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“Born into a Silent World” I would like to share the story of a child who was born into a silent world. I am born to Deaf parents, in the dusty streets of Orlando East, Soweto. I have 5 siblings (1 brother and 4 sisters) all hearing. I changed my childhood frustrations, challenges and being discriminated against into a positive thinking and do my bit in changing the world.

During the era of apartheid disability was not recognised nor known amongst members of the communities. At school  we were called names by our peers. I hated every school going experience and being part of this silent world. We (siblings) were exposed to a tri-cultural environment which is my paternal side are Sesotho speaking whereas maternal side are isiZulu speaking and my parents are Deaf and we practised Deaf culture.

We were living with my paternal grandmother who is from a isiZulu background however she was married to a staunch Sesotho man who did not compromise his culture. Growing up into a silent world was the most challenging yet empowering and peaceful World. During the time of apartheid awareness on disability let alone deafness was a foreign phenomenon. I am not saying it has changed at this age and time however there is a big difference as opposed to yester years. Seeing a deaf person signing in the streets or public places, we will always get stares and it made one to be so uncomfortable.

Seeing my parents suffer in accessing information in public services institution, I decided to become an interpreter. My hands have changed how the world perceived deafness and I have afforded many deaf people access to information. I have worked and spoke in many public forums, interpreting live news, national government events including international forums raising awareness on deafness and equality.

I have founded Tshepiso Mokoena Foundation (TMFSA) with the aim of empowering Deaf children, youth and Women. Since we have founded TMFSA and raised awareness on equal treatment and acknowledgement of Deaf persons, the communities of our country recognised deaf people as equal persons who can contribute positively into the development of our country including other African countries. Through Social Media and mainstream media in our country, I use it to convey the message of equal treatment, recognition of our rights, potential and skills.

I was born into a silent world which I hated with passion when I was still immature and young because of the discrimination I experienced during my schooling days and in the community of Orlando East.

I transformed my challenge into a positive challenge. I remember my siblings and I used to discuss ways of employing survival tactics when we are being ridiculed by our peers. I transformed my challenge into a positive challenge by educating our communities on deafness.

I embraced the stares that we used to get when I was signing to my parents or paternal uncle in a taxi/bus/train or public places. It is a beautiful gift to be born into a silent world, which I changed into a beautiful and empowering world. Reminds me of President Obama’s words “we are the change we seek.” Be the change in your communities and educate the nation

Take action! This post was submitted in response to Take Back the Tech: Sing Your Story.

Comment on this Post


Thank you for sharing your story with us! I admire your courage through adversity, and am inspired by your journey to help deaf children and women through your foundation. You provide such an important service as an interpreter, and are truly being the change. I really enjoyed reading your story, and learning about your experiences in a silent world.

Warm wishes,