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“KREATIVCI” (CREATIVES) FROM ZENICA FOR A MORE INCLUSIVE SOCIETY: PROJECT “ČUJTE NAS” (HEAR US) TO IMPROVE THE POSITION OF DEAF AND PARTIALLY DEAF PERSONS

The Association “Kreativci” (the Creatives) believes that without an inclusive environment there is no full inclusion, so they directed their project “Čujte nas” (Hear Us) in that direction, and with it they want to improve the position of deaf and partially deaf persons, and make Zenica a city where their voice will be heard better. During the project, about thirty participants in three groups underwent training for the basics of sign language use, after which they participated in the recording of an electronic booklet in sign language.

“The project is oriented towards the community, towards an environment that should be more inclusive, so that we have a strengthened civil society in this segment. We involved students of the Faculties of the University of Zenica in the workshops in groups, and one group included a team from the “Sumero” alliance who often encounter people with disabilities, including people with hearing disabilities in their activities, and we had a mixed group open to everyone who wanted to learn sign language,” said Senad Muslić, Head of the “Čujte nas” project supported through the “Enable and Manage more Beneficial Civil Society (EMBRACE)” (EMBRACE) program funded by the Government of the Kingdom of Norway and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The main problems identified by “Kreativci” were underdeveloped awareness in the community, insufficient number of sign language interpreters, and a small number of people who know and use sign language, with no organized, regular and continuous education on the basics of sign language:

“One of our main goals is to promote sign language with the aim of improving communication, but also to get more certified interpreters. We focused on students and people who need sign language in their daily professional work. We also set up click-clack panels with the alphabet of sign language and the basics of the project at three faculties and in the premises of the ‘Youth Center Zenica’. In addition, we have created an electronic booklet in sign language that will be available on YouTube and through our website and social networks. It contains more than 220 basic concepts, questions and phrases needed in everyday communication, which are shown by our participants who participated in the workshops,” added Mr. Muslić.

The assistant of the project “Čujte nas” Zlatan Dizdarević underlined that the main idea is “to reach the society that is simply not yet adapted”:

“Our work is directed towards the community and we also reach people who are not deaf, who will be professors and teachers, nurses and technicians of tomorrow. A large number of students from the University of Zenica, among them those from the Faculty of Education, went through training, and tomorrow when they become professors and teachers, they will be able to communicate immediately. Ultimately, irrespective of the profession, if they eventually obtain a certificate as a certified interpreter, they can be employed as assistants in schools or other jobs for which they are required, purely because of their sign language skills,” said Mr. Dizdarević, adding that workshop participants receive a certificate that they have received training, and can still go for certification, which takes time and additional training:

“The need for certified interpreters is great, because they are necessary for the court, the municipality…, and other segments. Through our activities, we would like to train at least 3-4 certified interpreters in Zenica who will pass the exam with the Federal Union for the Deaf and Partially Deaf Persons which provides certificates”.

Branka Jurić, a secretary of the Association of Associations of Deaf and Partially Deaf Persons of the Zenica Doboj Canton, and the only person with the certificate of sign language interpreter in this Canton, was hired as the head of sign language workshops in the project “Čujte nas”.

“There are 6,000 deaf and partially deaf people in the Zenica-Doboj Canton, and no one sees or hears them, and that is the problem. For example, medical school should teach sign language, and it used to be compulsory. Tomorrow they’ll be medical workers, and they won’t be able to communicate with deaf and partially deaf patients. If, for example, I get hit by a car or something else happens to me, and ambulance comes – I may not be able to explain to them what is wrong with me because they do not understand me, and I cannot wait for an interpreter,” said Ms. Branka Jurić, who also works as a sign language teacher teaching at the Islamic Pedagogical Faculty in Zenica.

“No one should suffer the discrimination suffered by deaf and partially deaf persons in environments that do not hear or understand them.”

She added that projects like this are very necessary for the community, because by improving communication in both directions, deaf and partially deaf persons become more visible, their discrimination is reduced, their voice is heard and thus they can participate more actively in the community and fight for their rights:

“Deaf people do not go to vote, because no one speaks to them in their language, and they do not get enough quality explanations on how to vote and thus lose their basic democratic right, and therefore projects such as this one are important. Deaf and partially deaf children go to kindergartens where they are unfortunately often refused enrollment, even though they belong there as any other child does. They also have to go to schools. No one should suffer the discrimination suffered by deaf and partially deaf persons in environments that do not hear or understand them. “

We are attending one of the rehearsals that Branka is conducting with the participants, where they are rehearsing the song “Djeca su vojska najjača” (Children are the strongest army), which will be a part of the electronic sign language booklet. Before they start rehearsing the song, Branka goes through the basics with them, repeating the days of the week, months and other basic phrases, after which they move on to the song itself…

“Since I have frequent contacts with deaf and partially deaf persons in my line of work, I would like to see my colleagues and myself learning sign language, first the basics and then advanced, so that we can communicate better and then we can pass our knowledge on to other colleagues. I’m very happy and everything went better than expected. I like it better than I thought I would. Knowing the sign language is just as important as knowing English language, because there are a large number of those who use it,” said Mr. Kenan Fifić from the “Sumero” alliance, and his colleague Ms. Sabina Mašić is also pleased with the knowledge she learned at the workshops:

“I have been working with people with disabilities for several years now and I have to admit that my biggest challenge is when they are deaf persons. Then I feel like I’m under a lot of pressure trying to get some information, and I feel like I’m being ridiculous trying to explain something. As soon as I heard about this, I found it very interesting and wanted to make the most of the opportunity. Branka is an excellent teacher, she can explain everything to us well, encourage us to use sign language, and I’m glad to be a part of this. I only wish it had been even more intense,” said Sabina.

Project manager Senad Muslić says he hopes that what has been started, done and achieved through the project will continue to live on after its completion, and that the local community will recognize the importance of this approach and to a greater extent support activities to train even more needed certified interpreters for sign language:

“The billboards, the electronic booklet that will be available to all, the trained people and the educated and empowered community are a summary of what we leave behind the project for now. We plan to spend at least a month doing promotion in the streets and squares through a multimedia box, as well as through the media and social networks, and the central event will be the celebration of September 27th, International Day of the Deaf.”

The project “Enable and Manage more Beneficial Civil Society (EMBRACE)” (EMBRACE) was financed by the Government of the Kingdom of Norway in the amount of USD 880,000 and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), with the aim of strengthening the capacity of civil society organizations (CSOs) to improve the quality of services provided to citizens and citizens in local communities.

Resource: “Kreativci” (Creatives) from Zenica for a more inclusive society: Project “Čujte nas” (Hear Us) to improve the position of deaf and partially deaf persons | United Nations Development Programme (undp.org)

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