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Deaf Women Aloud: Advocating for the Rights and Well-being of Hearing-Impaired Women in Taraba State

Over 100 hearing-impaired women from across the sixteen Local Government Areas of Taraba State gathered in Jalingo for the Deaf Women Conference organized by the Deaf Women Aloud Initiative. 
The conference, held in early October, aimed to address the pressing issues surrounding the sexual and reproductive health rights of deaf women and girls in the state. 
The event, held under the theme "Unheard," brought attention to the challenges faced by the hearing-impaired population, particularly in the realms of education and employment. According to the World Health Organization, over 5% of the world's population suffers from disabling hearing loss, and in Sub-Saharan Africa, individuals with hearing impairments often lack the necessary support for success. The conference featured various sessions and discussions, with Gloria Manasseh Luka, a broadcast journalist from Rock FM Radio 92.3 Jalingo, delivering a goodwill message. Luka expressed her surprise at the significant turnout, stating, "I never knew we had a huge population of hearing-impaired women in Nigeria: over 100 hearing-impaired women from across the state." 
She noted that this count did not include men or children in attendance, emphasizing the vastness of the hearing-impaired community in the region. 
During her speech, Luka highlighted the importance of supporting the sexual and reproductive health rights of deaf women and girls. 
Two interpreters, Fatima, the daughter of a hearing-impaired woman, and another participant, skillfully translated the message to the excited crowd. 

 The event shed light on several crucial issues faced by the hearing-impaired community in Nigeria.
 Among the lessons shared by Luka were practical tips on communication, such as using hand gestures for applause and avoiding touching or grabbing to get a hearing-impaired person's attention.
 Attendees were also urged to learn basic sign language for essential expressions like "Please," "Sorry," and "Thank you." 
A startling statistic shared during the conference revealed that 25% of Nigerian hearing-impaired women could benefit from hearing aids and cochlear implants but are constrained by financial limitations. 
Job opportunities and learning utilities for hearing-impaired women were reported to be insufficient, with high incidences of physical and domestic abuse, even within marriages. Stakeholders emphasized the need for 'deaf inclusion' in social, cultural, and health spaces, advocating for the presence of interpreters in television, radio, and alternative media programs beyond just news segments. 
As the conference concluded, it was evident that organizations like the Deaf Women Association of Nigeria (DWAN) play a crucial role in standing in the gap for the hearing-impaired community. 
DWAN provides guidance and counselling services to hearing-impaired girls, women, parents, and guardians, empowering them to fight for their rights and advocating for comprehensive laws to address the challenges they face. 
The conference served as a platform to amplify the voices of the unheard, sparking discussions and actions towards a more inclusive and supportive society for the hearing-impaired in Taraba State. 

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