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Deaf Women Leaders in Ghana, Africa: Empowerment, Advancement

Deaf women leaders are active in Ghana. And they are helping other deaf women learn to be leaders too. Watch interview of two leaders.
Screenshot from a video of two women seated at a table.

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Interview with President and Vice President of the Ghana National Association of the Deaf Women's Wing (GNAD-WW)

Click here to show & hide the transcript with descriptions

Training Deaf Women Leaders in Ghana

Image Description: Two women are seated at a table. Throughout the video, they are signing to the camera and to each other. At left is Saadia Abukari, the Vice President of the Ghana National Associaiton of the Deaf (GNAD) Women’s Wing (WW). At right is Doris Anokye, President of GNAD-WW.

Transcript: [Video begins with Doris Anokye already signing] “We want to choose them and bring them to WA for training and open minds. We’re looking for money.”

Doris Anokye: [In response to a question from someone off camera] “WA–“

Saadia Abukari: “WA, it’s up north” [Saadia and Doris ask someone off camera to get a map for them]

Doris Anokye: “We’re looking for money to have activities, help them and train them and teach awareness. Many people don’t respect deaf women. They see deaf women and don’t respect them. We want to show what deaf people can do so people will respect deaf women.” [Someone off camera asks a question]

Empowering Deaf Women Leaders in Ghana

Doris Anokye: “There are 5 board members. But out there, there are some deaf women who are weak. Some deaf women can’t act, don’t talk, they’re passive. If they need to vote, they hang back and don’t vote. They don’t realize we are strong. We can vote and be leaders. We will train them to be more assertive and have more confidence. Encourage them to feel ‘I can vote, I can do this.’ There are men out there that would try to encourage deaf women to do something else. No, we need to encourage them to band together and stand together as deaf women. They will be strong. This is the Women’s Wing.”

Saadia Abukari: “Also, as Vice President, I know many people see women as weak. People think women can’t take action. That’s why I’ve joined as a Vice President, I’ve seen so many people oppress women. It hurts me. That’s why I became vice president so I can help all women become more active. That way, men can’t go over women. Women can roll up our sleeves and work.” [Doris Anokye nods in agreement]

[Someone off camera asks a question in sign language.]

Doris Anokye: “First we have to solve how. We need to bring them together. If they’re having disagreements or can’t work, we need to bring them together and work. It can be done. If we don’t bring them together, how can we solve disagreements? It’s hard. We need to get together, discuss it, encourage to be leaders and be unified as one.”

Becoming Leaders in Local, National Women’s Wing

[Both nod together in agreement. They watch someone off camera ask a question.]

[Both women simultaneously]: “No, no”

Doris Anokye:  I’m a member of the association in Kumasi. I was the President of the Women’s Wing there. I then became the President of the Women’s Wing at the national level. [points at Saadia] She is new. Right now the Women’s Wing have not been active. We need to pull together and start working again. We can then spread out to other areas. We can then start empowering ourselves and expose other deaf women that we can do. 

Doris Anokye: How did we grow? It started in the districts. Some established Women’s Wing and would call forth deaf women. Some women, their husbands died, they are now alone and they need support. Other women can come together and support this person. Or their husband divorced, we can support that person, comfort them, help them work through the divorce, and feel better. This helps deaf women to unify and grow.

New Vice President

Saadia Abukari: As the Women’s Wing Vice President, it’s my first time. I’m from the North and have become the Vice President. I’ve seen many problems through local girls’ groups and through welfare. Some have problems from parents not supporting or oppressing them. The parents think that they, as a deaf woman, cannot succeed. So it is better to mobilize them together and empower them. Brainstorm how to solve issues like if they have no job, how to help them find a job and achieve. Same way if they are in a relationship and that man does not have money to support them, we can help them get welfare in order to support themselves.       

Doris Anokye: “Through learning and training they can gain confidence in their ability to lead. If they don’t have training, they can’t. Training helped me be confident. In 2008, they came to train us how to teach. That got me motivated so I felt ready to be a deaf woman leader in Ghana. 

Reaching Parents, Women

Saadia Abukari: “Some parents think deaf kids can’t go to school. We have to encourage them to believe it is possible for deaf children to go to school. Show them that deaf children do go to school. Deaf people can succeed. Or the children don’t have homework, so the parents think they cannot work. We need to show them, so they can say ‘I saw a deaf person in this job. That means deaf people can do it too.’

Doris Anokye: “Also, many women are begging. Men make them beg. We tell them they have a right to not have to beg. This is wrong. We need to make a stand and stop them from begging. It will become worse for them later in life. Teaching them helps them to be empowered and not allow men to force them to beg. Make a stand.”    

[Both women watch someone off camera ask a question. Both say, “No, no”.]

Deaf Women Freedom from Oppression

Doris Anokye: “I’m free, I’m glad to be free. I won’t let men oppress me. I have been trained. Before that, I didn’t think I could do anything on my own. Now I am trained, I roll up my sleeves and act as leader.”

[Someone off camera asks a question.]

Saadia Abukari: “Really, many parents think deaf women can’t. Even if they are married, the parents do not let them go out. They become oppressed and suffer. We need someone to go and check on them, and find out why. Why do the parents do not allow and tell them no?  We need to bring the deaf women out and let them learn. They can become strong and stand up to their parents, asking why are they oppressing them and not letting them succeed? So it’s better to show them, I can do that as a Vice President. The President and I can go and have a meeting with parents for training and awareness.”

Women and Men

Doris Anokye: “Some deaf men are lazy, let women stay at home and not go out. We ask them to come, and the women say their husband does not allow it. We ask them why. Men need to respect them and support them learning to become deaf women leaders in Ghana. Women can be secretary, or treasurer. People will look up to them and they will advance.”  

North and South Regions

[Women watch someone off camera ask a question.]

Saadia Abukari: “North and South”

Doris Anokye: “Deaf all over” 

[Both women signing simultaneously]

Saadia Abukari: “In the northern regions, we have problems because deaf women marry hearing men. They are not sign language interpreters. They have problems because the men oppress women. Like for example, if there is something with a war happening, the deaf woman do not hear about it. They go out to get water from the well and then the military will find them and beat them up. They do not realize the person was deaf and are sorry about it. Violence happens a lot. They do not learn about it or human rights. They haven’t learned about it so they have problems, especially in the Northern region. Social workers do not train them. Some husbands are violent. The women are weak.”   

[Question from off camera]

Saadia Abukari: Yes there is a struggle between the North and the South. In the past there were disagreements between the North and the South. Why? Maybe because the North ways are different and more aggressive and the South are uncomfortable with it. The South look at them as terrible and this causes a division. They need to come together.  

Experienced Deaf Women Leaders in Ghana Should Mentor New Leaders

Doris Anokye: “There are two strong women. The rest of the 8 are weak. The two are strong because they have been trained and are leaders. But when they leave, then new deaf women come in and they do not know what to do. Maybe another person doesn’t like what they do, so they become afraid and the association becomes weak. We need to train new leaders so they will gain experience and be stronger.” 

[Question from off camera]

Doris Anokye: “More experienced leaders need to help teach new leaders. It’s important to bring in new and young leaders. We cannot reject them. If we reject them how do we progress in our work?”

Motivating People to Work

Saadia Abukari: “If a new leader does not show respect to people, they won’t come. Have to show respect so they will come together”

[Question from off camera]

Doris Anokye: “I must show respect to people so they will be more enthusiastic to work. They will be more happy and positive. If you are strict and mad, they won’t come.  Don’t talk about the bad, take advantage of the good things. Encourage them, teach how to improve. Then people will be more motivated.”

Deaf women are active leaders in Ghana. They lead at the local level and also at the national level. But how did they advance in leadership? What are they doing to help younger deaf women become leaders, too?

Watch our interview with Saadia Abukari, the Vice President of the Ghana National Associaiton of the Deaf (GNAD) Women’s Wing (WW) and Doris Anokye, President of GNAD-WW. Together, they explain how they became leaders. They also explain what they believe they should do to support the growth of more deaf women leaders in Ghana.

Both women were also in a different video a few months ago, encouraging Deaf women to be strong.

Also explore other resources related to deaf women.

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