More Voices: Translating COVID-19 Awareness for People with Disabilities

How did you learn about coronavirus? And how did you learn to protect yourself from it? Perhaps someone told you about it. Maybe you heard about COVID-19 on the news or radio. If you’re reading this post, you may have seen a video or read an article.  

From social media to texts to radio broadcasts to pamphlets — even loudspeakers paired with health demonstrations —country staff and women participants of the signature program have found many solutions to educate their communities about coronavirus. Here’s one more: sign language.  

Although the signature training program in South Sudan is currently suspended, the team in Yei continued supporting the most vulnerable women, including women with disabilities.  

The success of the radio broadcasts in South Sudan sparked a collaboration with Disabled Action Group (DAG), a local community-based organization. DAG approached Women for Women International staff to connect them to community members with visual and hearing impairments so they could learn about the disease and how to protect themselves from it.  

The team in South Sudan had recently completed the Disability & Inclusion Workshop at Humanity International and were eager to begin expanding their support. They invited DAG and 28 women, men, girls, and boys with disabilities to the office for a training session.  

Everywhere in the world, people with disabilities face discrimination and barriers that prevent them from accessing knowledge and power.  

The South Sudan team hosting a COVID-19 training for visual and hearing impaired people
Together with Disabled Action Group, the South Sudan hosted a COVID-19 training session for visual and hearing impaired people that was also translated into sign language.

In Yei, most of the school-aged participants of the workshop felt forced to drop out of school – either because their parents would not send them because of their disability or lack of school resources, such as sign language translators.  

Because literacy rates can be a challenge for the communities we serve, delivering information about COVID-19 symptoms, how it spreads, behaviors that exacerbate the risk, and prevention must be thoughtful and accessible. Through sessions translated into sign language, role play, physical health demonstrations, and question and answer portions, members learned about the outbreak and what they could do.  

With this health knowledge, participants felt more power to care for and protect themselves but knew they needed more support. They stressed the need for a follow-up session, to refresh them on lessons and reinforce guidelines and prevention measures.  

Women for Women International’s South Sudan team agreed and held a refresher training. And to ensure members could put hygiene and hand washing measures into practices, the team distributed soap bars. With care, attention, and knowledge, everyone in attendance was bright. They felt included but most of all, that they were capable and strong.  

When the session wrapped up, the team in South Sudan had one more task – a home visit to Stella.  

Widowed with two daughters, Stella went blind in 2005 at the age of 22. She had been living in Wondruba Village and had ingested something poisonous that took her sight.  

Today she lives with her five-year-old daughter while her eight-year-old daughter resides in a refugee camp in Uganda, with the hope of avoiding the ongoing violence and conflict in South Sudan. Alone, Stella does everything by herself: chores, farming, and negotiating with neighbors to help sell her produce.  

Stella receives a visit from the South Sudan team
During household chores, Stella and her daughter received a home visit from the South Sudan team.

Because Stella also experiences difficulty walking, the team saw the importance of meeting Stella’s needs by literally meeting her where she was. They brought her soap and the same crucial health information about the pandemic so Stella could continue caring for herself and her family.  

As they left, Stella expressed appreciation for the home visit. Since she had moved from her sister’s home, Women for Women International's visit had been the first of its kind. 

Achieving an equitable world where every woman is equal and has power over her life means supporting her needs. We are proud of the South Sudan team’s work to understand women’s individual needs such as disabilities, meet them where they are, and join their journeys of transformation.  

Across all of Women for Women International’s country programs, staff are deepening our work to be more inclusive towards people with disabilities. South Sudan is just one example. They are looking for opportunities to improve programs and make them more accessible for all women.  

With your support, we can reach even more women living in the hardest places to be one find the strength and power to overcome obstacles.  

Learn more about how we support women’s journey of transformation