Honiara, Solomon Islands - International Day of Sign Languages (IDSL) was celebrated today for the first time in the Solomon Islands since IDSL’s recent establishment as an International Day in 2018 by the UN General Assembly.

IDSL recognizes the importance of preserving sign languages as part of linguistic and cultural diversity. It also emphasizes the principle of “nothing about us without us” in terms of working with deaf communities and valuing the important role of interpreters.

The Solomon Islands Deaf Association (SIDA) in partnership with UN Peace Building funded Empowering Youth as Agents for Peace and Social Cohesion in the Solomon Islands, and the Australian Government funded Solomon Islands Access to Justice Project, organized a number of activities to mark this special day.

Both projects have mutually reinforcing commitments in advancing young people’s participation and empowerment in building resilience, peace, inclusion and focus on enhancing access to justice for all Solomon Islanders including people with disabilities.

The collaboration contributes to the aim of empowering and fostering the engagement of young women and men who will proactively contribute to the peace and sustainable development of their country, promote social inclusion and build resilience to crises such as COVID-19.

San Isidro Care Center students putting on a dance performance (Photo: UNDP)
Participants at the celebration (Photo: UNDP)
Students from the Special Development Center and San Isidro Care Center (Photo: UNDP)

As part of the activities to commemorate IDSL, solidarity videos with appearances from justice sector stakeholders, organisations of persons with disabilities, students, UN agencies and popular culture figures, as well as the World Federation of the Deaf were screened at a one-day event held at the National Museum Auditorium.

The participants at the event learned the experiences of deaf persons and justice stakeholders including the Public Solicitor’s Office. Social inclusion anthems showcased the talents of people with disabilities as well as creative arts performances.

SIDA representative and small business owner, Mr. Ben Esibaea said, “There is a need for mainstreaming education, developing a code for sign languages and increasing the number of interpreters to connect the deaf community and culture into the mainstream to provide opportunities for livelihoods.”

His speech was interpreted by Ms. Anna Sasa.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Solomon Islands, Access to Justice Project Manager, Ms Grace Kiernan said, “Early access to sign language and related services is critical to the growth and development of deaf persons and vital to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Her speech was interpreted by Ms. Madlyn Vaiforau.

The event served to raise awareness of the importance of sign language in the full realization of human rights for deaf people, which is a part of access to justice. Inclusivity of deaf people and sign languages is essential as COVID-19 is impacting societies and vulnerable people at their very core, deepening pre-existing inequalities.

There was wide attendance from schools, the justice sector, different ministry representatives and the general public. This reflected the interest and commitment to this year’s theme of ‘Sign Languages are for Everyone, Access to Justice is for Everyone.’

For more information or media inquiries please contact:

Mr Ednal Palmer, Communications Specialist, UNDP Solomon Islands Office; tel: (677) 27446 / 7336633; email: ednal.palmer@undp.org

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