Hansa (meaning Swan) is a bright young 22 year old woman who we met a couple of days ago in a village over 100km from Ahmedabad in India.
Hansa is deafblind, and was first identified by Sense International (India) and their local partners in 2002 when she was 12 years old. At the time she lived in the corner of a room, in a patriarchal, male-dominated household, and was excluded from the family.
Following her identification, Sense International (India) arranged for her parents to meet with other parents of deafblind children, so that they could see what she was capable of and to learn from those in similar situations. From the meeting they gained an understanding of deafblindness, and realised that through training they would one day be able to communicate with their daughter.
A community based worker named Deepak has been supporting Hansa for over 10 years. Deepak first conducted a vision and hearing assessment, which allowed him to fully understand Hansa’s potential. From the assessment, Deepak realised that Hansa had some usable vision and hearing remaining, so decided to teach her sign language so that she would be able to communicate with her family and community.
10 years on, Hansa is able to perfectly communicate in sign language, and has mastered both the Gujarati and English alphabets, which she can use to write on people’s palms. Her father, Porshotam, has also learnt sign language following Deepak’s visits, and is now able to understand the needs of his daughter.
Hansa supports her family with household duties such as cooking and washing, and her next step with Deepak is to identify a trade so that she can become fully independent. She loves perfumes and cosmetics, and to dance with her friends!
In addition to Hansa’s remarkable progress, the whole community’s attitude to deafblindness has changed. As Deepak told us: “If I had been the only one working with Hansa, she would not be where she is now. It is only because of the help of all the other people in the community.”
We were both so impressed by our visit to Hansa, and wanted to share her story this International Women’s Day. She is an inspiration to all women in overcoming the challenges they might face in their lives.
Posted March 2012 from the field by Cecile Hyafil and Katie Williams, STARS’ Asia Programmes Team.