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Deaf People in Gaza Excel at Traditional Professions, Break Social Barriers

Deaf People in Gaza Excel at Traditional Professions, Break Social Barriers

Tuesday, 24 September, 2019 - 06:30
Deaf people in Gaza excel at traditional professions.

Every year, the UN celebrates the International Day of Sign Languages on September 23, to recognize its major role in achieving the goals of sustainable development and protecting the linguistic identity and cultural diversity of people using it.

According to statistics by the World Federation of the Deaf, nearly 72 million people around the world are deaf. Eighty percent of them live in developing countries and use over 300 sign languages.

Many recent research and studies on marketing and commerce have highlighted the importance of selecting the best manner and method to communicate with clients. This selection is the basis of any marketing process.

However, the situation is not the same for many deaf working people who suffer from hearing impairments and use sign language to communicate with others in the Gaza Strip.

Hashem Ghazal, 53, father of nine, heads the carpentry of the Our Deaf Children Association.

From a young age, the way others look at disabled people caused him many difficulties. However, he has worked hard to change it by learning and mastering commerce until he became a prominent merchant.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat and with the help of a sign language interpreter, Hashem said: "We launched our project with modest capacities and limited support in 1993.”

It then expanded and now hires dozens of people with disabilities.

“We make all types of wooden furniture and organize regular galleries for the public," he added.

Speaking about sign language and its role in his life, he recalled that he struggles to communicate with people, especially with customers, so he has hired an interpreter.

He also highlighted the challenges he faces in the governmental and public facilities, which lack the expertise to address the needs of disabled people. But he said his family learned sign language and easily communicates with him.

Sajida Ghazal, in her forties, works with a group of deaf women, who found their path to integrate in their society by working in a sewing factory that makes embroidered fabrics inspired by the Palestinian heritage.

Amidst the sewing machines, Sajida stands and uses her hand gestures to inform the working women about the required quantities and the details they have to stick to during their work so they can achieve the final design of the fabric. The other women communicate with her using sign language as well.

"I have worked here for many years with over 20 women. We share the details of our day and communicate with all people, including merchants and customers, through sign language," Sajida told Asharq Al-Awsat. She added that she uses sign language with her peers and family, hoping it will become widely used in Palestinian society one day.

According to Sajida, women in the sewing factory make special garments for children and female accessories featuring special details from the Palestinian heritage.

"This work provides an income that ensures them and their families a decent life amid the hard living conditions in the strip," she explained.

The Our Deaf Children Association was founded in 2009 to offer children and adults suffering from hearing impairments or loss opportunities of education and vocational training.

In a closed room with nothing but the sound of textile spinning apparatuses, Issam Shaldan, 47, works with two colleagues in installing or separating yarns based on their colors. They speed up their work pace so they can finish an order including carpets, wall carpets, and women accessories. They focus on the smallest details to provide the best and finest products.

Shaldan, who suffers from a hearing impairment since birth, said "learning this profession was challenging."

Shaldan has a family of seven. He said he graduated from the association's craftsmanship institute, and today, he is part of its team. Speaking about sign language, he said he never felt different for using it, especially since everybody respects him and easily communicates with him.

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