From a Deaf Vote, to a Heard Voice: One Man’s Quest in Libya

Friday, September 2, 2016
Ramadan of the Hope for Deaf Association

“When I was trained I thought I could not be any happier, but when I delivered the training that touched many others, I knew I will be happier every time I do this. This is just the first of many trainings we will be delivering. Every Libyan has the right to this information, and all Libyans have the right to raise their voices even if they are deaf.”

Ramadan was quick to accept the invitation to be part of the USAID Consortium for Elections and Political Processes Strengthening (CEPPS) Program’s Training of Trainers on the Electoral Lexicon for Deaf Persons. “I did not give it a second thought, because this was the only hope for me to make a change,” said Ramadan. From the start, Ramadan showed enthusiasm about the training and the new sign language Lexicon of 300 electoral terms.

When interviewed, he shared a story that is all too common in the deaf community in Libya and elsewhere, where much of the electoral and political information is not translated into sign language. “It all started in 2012 when a cousin of mine paid me an unexpected visit. He took me to a polling center and told me to put a tick mark in front of a certain name on the ballot,” Ramadan recalled. “At that time I did not know what was going on around me, and there was no sign language translation. No one tried to explain. My voting right was used, because I knew nothing about the elections, The same thing happened to many people in the deaf community in Libya.”

Keen to participate fully in the electoral process and exercise his right to information, Ramadan took initiative to learn quickly and help his colleagues integrate the new words and signs. As a leader and experienced activist in the Deaf General Union, Ramadan has also directly contributed to improving the Lexicon. One month after the training, Ramadan led a training of his own on the Electoral Lexicon for Deaf Persons, hosted by the Hope for Deaf Association in Libya, where he gathered Libyans from different age groups and cultural backgrounds, including women. Ramadan shared what he had learned and what he believes is a critical tool for enhancing the electoral and political knowledge of deaf persons in Libya.

As a leader in the deaf community with a critical new set of skills, Ramadan now empowers deaf persons in Libya to exercise their right to information, to participate in the electoral process, and to play their role in rebuilding Libya.