The “Deaf Women of Togo” section of the Association des Sourds du Togo (AST) organized on 5th and 6th March 2021, two days training and awareness on the rights of women with disabilities. This activity session, which reached more than twenty female deaf participants, was part of the recommendations of the partnership workshop held in January 2017 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
The session was moderated by the female coordinator of the “Women with disabilities” component of the Togolese Federation of the Persons with Disabilities (FETAPH) and the representative of the Association “Women Democracy and Development Reflection Group (GF2D)”. The objective was to provide a reminder of the basic concepts relating to human rights in general and the rights of the people with disabilities in particular and to allow the female participants to appropriate the content of international and national law on rights of women with disabilities. A sign language interpreter was present to facilitate communication.
To allow a better understanding of legal instruments on human rights for the female participants, the participatory approach was the method used. The presentation of the legal instruments which are the basis of human rights and the rights of the persons with disabilities enabled the female participants to understand the origin of the human rights and its merits.
The first day of the activity focused on international and national legislation on legal and institutional rights of women and those with disabilities and the second day on themes of rights such as marriage (formal and substantive conditions, prohibitions and consequences of marriage), matrimonial regimes (types of matrimonial regimes in Togo, their advantages and disadvantages), divorce (types of divorce and its consequences), inheritance (customary, testamentary and legal) which constitute obstacles to the development of the women. It also enhanced the female participants’ knowledge of tools to protect human rights in general and those of women. The presentation content on the Convention of the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) enabled the female participants to understand the globalization of their rights and the types of rights that are specific to them.
The experience sharing present during this session enabled them to become aware of the degree of their vulnerability and to strengthen their mind in case they encounter obstacles and meet the challenges in terms of double vulnerability (discrimination in relation to sex and vulnerability to disability). The female participants demonstrated their interest in their legal well-being. The difficulties that the female participants encountered are the violations made on some of them based on reasons which could not be shared neither in front of the participants nor with the knowledge of some deaf men who were present in the room. These are things that could be considered intimate, secret or even personal. Even the male sign language interpreter still wouldn’t do the job when needed to be listened to, to speak out on their own stories. Women can take a step back and continue to suffer from the violations. These are all difficulties, but the Association des Sourds du Togo will retain some. One of the difficulties is that of the frame. A deaf woman who wants to seek legal advice will necessarily or always need a permanent social framework to help her be clear about what she wants and support her in the often-difficult legal procedures. Another difficulty is the availability of female sign language interpreters. Understandably, a deaf woman will certainly need a female sign language interpreter to accompany her. One of the major difficulties is the accessibility to information, to the content of legal texts, etc. in sign language or at least in easy-to-read French.
The challenges encountered are the vulnerability of deaf women, the ignorance of their rights on specific themes, such as: women’s education, work, marriage, inheritance, the lack of a social framework to accommodate cases, etc.
The two days of training and awareness sessions produced positive impacts such as open-mindedness, the realities and rights of deaf women, the capacity building on the women rights are strengthened. The most crucial lessons learnt were on the discovery of their vulnerability, the understanding of their issues on dependence due to ignorance on their rights, the accessibility to services in the case of violation of their rights.
The female participants were urged to put into practice the knowledge acquired during these two days of activity. They expressed their satisfaction with the themes developed. Because they now have the legal weapons that should help them in their future lives by asserting themselves better.
It should be noted that in view of the situation of the deaf women and their needs in terms of strengthening their understanding of their rights, the content of the module was adapted and appreciated by the female participants. The more legal content has awakened the deaf women to the situations of injustice they have endured. They also understood the abuses and traumas suffered by some of the female participants.