Teenage volunteer worker Sanjeeda Choudhury is fighting for deaf rights. The 18-year-old has been fighting for deaf people’s rights in poverty-filled rural Kenya for the last three months. Sanjeeda, of Roman Road, East Ham, who is deaf herself, has returned home after living in poverty and teaching many people how to use sign language.
“The situation for deaf people in Kenya is massively different to the UK, as most people in Kenya think that being deaf is a curse and because of that, deaf people are neglected and often hidden in their homes by their family,” she said. “Life for deaf people in Kenya is really difficult.”
She was living and working in Nandi County, a rural area six hours north-west of the Kenyan capital Nairobi, where poverty, prejudice and limited resources mean deaf people are often marginalised and miss out on the support they need.
Sanjeeda travelled to help change this, as part of a unique project run by international development organisation VSO and deaf charity Deafway, through the UK government-funded International Citizen Service (ICS) programme. “Our project helped because it created more awareness of deaf culture and sign language, which made people realise that being deaf isn’t a bad thing,” she said.
“My proudest moment was when, after teaching sign language to the students at school, I had people signing to me in the street and parents coming in to say they would like to learn too. This really made all the hard work feel worth it.”
The former Plashet School student, who worked alongside other deaf people from both the UK and Kenya, also helped build a playground at the local deaf school and organise a deaf awareness march that brought deaf children and young people together in the centre of Nandi’s largest town, to fight for the rights of deaf people and an end to discrimination.