World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf 2011

Location: Durban, South Africa    Projects: Awareness Activities: Events


World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf 2011

On July 18, 2011, the 93rd birthday of human rights activist Nelson Mandela, over 2,100 registered participants from 125 countries came together in Durban, South Africa for the XVI World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD).

This was (Mr. A. S. Narayanan (Secretary), Mr. Anuj Jain (Joint Secretary), Mrs. Geeta Sharma (Woman Secretary), Mr. Dilip Jangir (Executive Board Member), Mr. Umesh Grover (Executive Board Member), Ms. Anu Saigal (North India Deaf Woman Committee) & Mr. Yogindra Nath Bhargava (Member) from  National Association of The Deaf, India’s first opportunity to attend a WFD World Congress, which are only hosted every four years. In between presentations on Deaf Education, Developing Countries, Human Rights, and Sign Language and Deaf Studies as part of the event's "Global Deaf Renaissance" theme, we held meetings with officials from the WFD, the USA National Association of the Deaf (NAD), and numerous other NADs around the globe. We are grateful to learn from these well-established organizations, and look forward to collective efforts reinforcing the work of local Deaf leaders in developing countries.

WFD is an international non-governmental organization representing approximately 70 million Deaf people around the globe, over which 80% live in developing countries. Recognized as a spokes-organization by the United Nations (UN), WFD works collaboratively with the UN to promote the human rights of Deaf people, preserve native sign languages, and ensure that Deaf people have equal access to education and information. At this year's Congress, outgoing WFD president Markku Jokinen received the Dr. Liisa Kauppinen Human Rights Award for his benevolent service to Deaf people worldwide during his past eight years in office. His role as president has now been passed to Colin Allen of Australia, whom the international Deaf community has revered for his extraordinary leadership.

Throughout the week, we were informed about current research studies on the status of Deaf people, sign language, and interpreters from Asia, Africa, Europe, Oceania and the Americas. Here are a handful of interesting facts we learned:

  • WFD has documented 27 countries who have officially recognized sign language at various levels;
  • In Sweden, for every Deaf person who uses sign language, there are 8-10 hearing people who us sign language (parents, partners, interpreters, CODAs, etc.);
  • Countries in Francophone West & Central Africa Regions each have 1-5 sign language interpreters for the entire country, all of whom are informal & untrained;
  • 31% of CODAs (hearing children of deaf adults) in South Africa feel their identity is more Deaf than hearing; and
  • Deaf and Hard of Hearing students are 1.5x more likely to be victims of abuse.

While our time in South Africa was short, we were honored to have met and learned from the many wonderful people endeavoring to improve the lives of Deaf people around the world. As Nelson Mandela famously said, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Through collaboration with organizations like WFD, and NAD aims to supplement such positive change.

We are already looking forward to the XVII WFD World Congress which will be held in Istanbul, Turkey in 2015. In addition, WFD will be hosting their Second International Conference in Sydney, Australia from October 16-18, 2013.

For more information on WFD, visit their homepage at:







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