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Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare Mary Thom Navicha has assured the Malawi National Association of the Deaf (MANAD) that Government is ready to work with and support the development of the first ever Malawian Sign Language Dictionary.

This was disclosed during the commemoration of the 2019 International Sign Language Day that took place at Kaliyeka Primary School Ground in Lilongwe.

“Having the Dictionary will ensure that sign language is appreciated and used as a mode of communication nationwide.  This Dictionary will help to harmonize existing sign languages in Malawi and have one Malawi Sign Language thereby creating a conducive environment for Deaf people to easily communicate and hence be included into the society and easily access basic needs of their lives. The Dictionary will signify our national commitment to embrace diverse sign languages in use across the country and the need to protect them,” said the Minister.

Commenting on the theme for this yearSign Language Rights for All The ministersaid thatevery human being has a right to acquire a language at birth.

“Sign language enables the Deaf population to communicate fully with others and acquire social skills. As such, without sign language Deaf people are not equal because we cannot separate sign language from their rights,” she said.

Navicha also emphasized on the need to have Sign Language interpreters since they act as a bridge between the deaf population and the rest of the society.

“Our greatest challenge at the moment as a country is shortage of Sign Language Interpreters, which is so far hampering access to information and communication and participation among Deaf people. My Ministry is therefore committing to support training of additional 30 or 40 Sign Language Interpreters in the country. These Sign Language Interpreters will be placed in all strategic places such as hospitals, schools including those of higher learning for all the Deaf to be communicated and access social services effectively,” said Navicha.

On his part Malawi National Association of the Deaf executive director Byson Chimenya said communication is a challenge among people with hearing impairments.

“This is so because many people do not recognize deafness as a disability since it is an invisible disability,” He said.

Chimenya also pleaded with the government and other stakeholders to support the process of developing a sign language dictionary.

Access to sign language gives Deaf people access to the world hence there is need to accord sign language the same status as spoken language.