A visit to Zambia Association of the Deaf

ZNAD sign outside of the organization's compound.

ZNAD sign outside of the organization’s compound.

Peggy Prosser listens to Mukuma and Mwebe talk about ZNAD's history and projects

Peggy Prosser listens to Mukuma and Mwebe talk about ZNAD’s history and projects

Zambia National Association of the Deaf (ZNAD) Located in Lusaka, Zambia, a mere six hour drive to the acclaimed Victoria Falls, is the Zambia National Association of the Deaf. Founded in 1981, it is a “Rights organization for deaf people managed by deaf people of Zambia”. ZNAD is affiliated with World Federation of the Deaf, Zambia Federation of Disability Organization , Southern Africa Federation of the Deaf, and African Federation of the Deaf . In addition to the national headquarters of ZNAD, they also have province branches, regional branches, and local clubs

DVD that discusses the CPRD and Zambia's government plan to include PWD including Deaf in their revised constitution.

DVD that discusses the CPRD and Zambia’s government plan to include PWD including Deaf in their revised constitution.

Zambia has ratified UN CRPD and is hard at work in drafting a new constitution that includes rights for Deaf Zambians. ZNAD has received funding from their government and developed a DVD in sign language explaining and discussing the first draft of the new constitution involving persons with disabilities including Deaf.

Though lobbying for Deaf rights is difficult, says former ZNAD president, Mckenzie Mbewe who is now a board member and consultant to ZNAD. He described that the Zambia government is currently focused on the integration or mainstreaming concept for its people with disabilities without fully understanding the deaf community’s unique needs. However, a major notable feat ZNAD has achieved is permanently obtaining a large plot of land complete with a two story office building. It not only consists of offices for the executive committee; space is allocated for its income generating enterprises: lodging, food catering, transportation, trading, real estate, and horticulture. Many members work or volunteer at ZNAD or they come to ZNAD for social.

James drafts on blackboard in one of ZNAD's workshop room ZNAD's network with other providences.

James drafts on blackboard in one of ZNAD’s workshop room ZNAD’s network with other providences.

We met with two other people who administrate the ZNAD office and projects; Mukuma Chikwata, ZNAD president and James, the ZNAD project director. They kindly took the time to inform us of their organization, programs, services and ZNAD history. They also showed us some resources that the ZNAD committee developed for distribution to ZNAD province branches and government sectors. We saw videos such as DVDs in sign language focusing on HIV/AIDS issues and some sign language posters. ZNAD has collaborated in developing several other programs with ZNAD members, universities, colleges and public sectors. The universities and colleges are working with them to include sign language training and sign language instruction training. “The interest of sign language in Zambia is spreading” says Mukuma. Programs with public sectors include information dissemination focusing on health and wellness to all Zambians including Deaf.

Zambian Sign Language and Alphabet poster

Zambian Sign Language and Alphabet poster

ZNAD has programs for its 2,000 registered members. Their members are diverse: ranging from deaf children, to deaf youth, to deaf men and women and deaf elders. James explained that they have a number of programs for Deaf communities in other provinces and programs specifically for Deaf women and youths. They are also working to continue some of their programs and also to develop new programs focusing on Deaf culture, arts, sporting and recreation activities and events. According to Mukuma, the most important interests of the Deaf Zambia community are jobs, communication services and access to public information. Unemployment among Deaf members is high, approximately 90% of the Deaf are out of work or looking for work. Many Deaf members want to find work, especially in Lusaka the capitol of Zambia. Mukuma explained how tough it is to serve unemployed members because many lack money to pay for fees to participate in programs, events or even buy a soda at their ZNAD cafe.

ZNAD President, Mukuma and board member, Mwebe introduces ZNAD while Lisa interprets Sri Lanka sign Language to Sarath, current president of Sri Lanka Central Federation of the Deaf.

ZNAD President, Mukuma and board member, Mwebe introduces ZNAD while Lisa interprets Sri Lanka sign Language to Sarath, current president of Sri Lanka Central Federation of the Deaf.

We are forced to keep our fees to a minimum or find funds to support participants to our programs, he added. “In as much as we at ZNAD want to advocate and promote the Deaf rights through programs and provide membership services and project for events, we seriously lack money too” added Mukuma. It is obvious that despite of the income generated enterprise programs at ZNAD, they still do not make enough money to sustain projects and let alone maintain the facilities and assets at ZNAD. Their office building needs major repairs and renovations. And their income generated programs need to be replaced or upgraded with newer technology or equipment and machinery. Mukuma has described that he will like to see a greenhouse be built to grow plants and flowers to sell to Lusaka, the Capitol of Zambia. He has asked if we knew of anyone who might be interested in supporting such project with them.

Clearly ZNAD is hopeful and their work is never ending. They are always open and welcome to visitors, guests, volunteers and investors. For more information or to offer volunteer services: ZNAD can be contacted via email at znadoffice@gmail.com or through the chairperson Mukuma Chikwata at mukumachik@gmail.com.

This article is co-written by two traveling pals, Lisa Fisher and Peggy Prosser. Photos are also taken by the two.