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Not Being Able To Hear Does Not Mean A Child Cannot Learn To Speak, Here’s Proof!

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By Shreya Jakhmola:

Watching a boy with hearing impairment speak fluent Bengali might sound as amusing as it left me surprised. 10-year-old Samiran Hansda, with permanent hearing impairment, in a recent meeting of SAHAS, stood in front of over 50 parents and their kids, narrating an essay in his mother tongue. His clarity of speech, volume, inflection, emphasis and effective communication skills reflected in him, a confidence that is hard to find in children afflicted with deafness.

Based in Durgapur, West Bengal, the Speech And Hearing Action Society, commonly referred to as SAHAS, was formed in the year 1998. Engaged with oral rehabilitation of hearing impaired children, the organisation upholds the motto of giving deafness a voice. A child born with deafness is generally forced to dumbness. As it is understood, a child learns to talk through hearing and if hearing itself is damaged there can be no talking. Dumbness is thus taken to be an inevitable consequence of deafness. An invisible condition that deafness is, it manifests into lack of proper speech and communication in those born with it. It may eventually develop into poor learning and, hence, reduced intellect, pushing the child to join the marginalised section of our society, stamped as ‘deaf and dumb’.

Deaf-Mute Kids Celebrate Home Coming Of Geeta At Indore
For representation only. Source: Shankar Mourya/Getty

Debates on freedom of speech and expression, today, have marked the socio-political landscape of the civil society. People, everywhere, given any issue, talk about how they are being deprived of their right to be heard and express themselves. In the case of auditory-impaired children, there is no choice of questioning to have a right to voice their opinion where there, literally, is no ‘voice’. SAHAS, thus, makes an effort to endow these children with the ability to speak through early hearing detection and intervention. Assisting over 300 kids with their muteness due to lack of hearing, the institution organises monthly meetings with parents and children. The meetings are held with different agendas aimed at equipping parents with skills to deal with their children helping them to speak and learn.

Held on the second Sunday of every month, a workshop was arranged on March 14, 2016, with parents, to teach them methods that could help them prepare their children to take lessons at school. It was headed by Mrs. Madhumita Jajodia and Payal, parents of deaf kids who have achieved success with their children in learning language to qualify for admission into mainstream education institutions. They shared their knowledge and experience with other parents. During the session, parents were briefed with techniques to brace their children mentally for facilitating learning at school. They were given suggestions about introducing kids with concepts of sounds, numbers and alphabets thus helping them to comfortably adapt to the school’s learning environment. The idea behind the workshop was not to encourage parents to replace the teachers’ role in their children’s lives by up-skilling them with the entire syllabus. It was, rather, to tune the kids’ motor and cognitive skills through play crafts such as flash cards, colouring, clay-modelling, puzzles, toys and other games to improve their learning capacity.

Not many people believed that language learning can be imparted to a child with hearing impairment. The only choice, thus, left for these kids was to resort to special schools and sign languages. The concept of ‘residual hearing‘, meaning, the ability to hear some sounds despite considerable hearing loss, is little investigated. It is proven that not every child with hearing impairment is born completely deaf and those born with deafness have some usable residual hearing that can be put to productive use with the help of proper aid. Fostering this residual hearing through auditory-verbal therapy can, thus, help these children learn to speak. However, only children under the age limit of 5 years, can be intervened with, to be introduced to sound and language. Thus, early detection and intervention remains a necessary criterion for treatment of dumbness due to deafness.

With over a million children born to deafness in India, the problem leaves them debilitated, thereby, estranging them from a normal life. Being socially distanced, these children are deprived of their right to live, learn and grow. Inability to communicate through spoken language denies them their wish to dream, let alone, fulfilling them. This forced plight of theirs, owing to the lack of awareness and ignorance in their treatment, reinstates the argument on equality and social justice. Being born unequal does not mean imposing on them, a life of seclusion. These kids have as much right to live and learn as any other so-called ‘normal’ child of the society. To gift their dreams a voice, it is therefore important to treat the misnomer, ‘deaf and dumb’ that they are often labelled with, by spreading across the message of ‘deaf, but not dumb’. Communicate with people around you to and let them know how their contribution can make a difference.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

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She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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