The Deaf Office

Gala’s Deaf Program ran for ten years, from 2006 to 2016.

The Deaf HIV/AIDS Awareness Project

This project was started in 2006 and aimed to help reduce the level of HIV/AIDS in the general Deaf population in South Africa by addressing the causes and effects of HIV in this community through the following activities:

– Providing educational outreach on HIV/AIDS to the Deaf community through
peer-education training, theatre, and other techniques.
– Ensuring resource materials were available to the HIV/AIDS, education and
disability sectors to assist them in educational outreach to the Deaf community.
– Advocacy that aimed to deepen understanding in the health, human rights, and disability sectors of the prevalence and impact of HIV/AIDS on the Deaf
community.

“I believe in myself and I am a strong deaf gay (person)” An oral history project with Deaf gay
and lesbian South Africans
By John Meletse and Ruth Morgan

The Deaf MSM Project


Launched in 2012 in partnership with The American Foundation for AIDS Research
(AmFAR), this project aimed to contribute to mobilising South African Deaf men-who have-sex-
with-men (MSM) to address HIV issues in their communities, and in doing so
build a strong foundation for future interventions.

John Meletse, the project coordinator, talks to CNN about why the Deaf community is at such high risk of
HIV infection and his personal path to becoming a Deaf HIV­positive activist.

The Deaf Lesbian & Bisexual Women’s Empowerment Project

History and Aims 
In 2010, we partnered with The Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice to start a project for Deaf women who identify as lesbian or bisexual in South Africa.
Deaf lesbian and bisexual women in South Africa confront many of the same hardships faced by all Deaf South Africans. But, they also have unique needs and challenges that require targeted interventions. For example, Deaf lesbians, who are already at increased risk of experiencing violence because of their gender and disability, safety concerns can prevent them from coming
out, or seeking support services.
The project addresses the challenges faced by Deaf lesbian and bisexual women through the following actions:
Promoting individual and joint advocacy by Deaf lesbian and bisexual women in their
communities.
Documenting and generate knowledge of the lives of Deaf lesbian and bisexual women.
Helping educate the public about sexual orientation and disability.
Building the capacity of Deaf lesbian and bisexual women to be peer­educators on sexual orientation. gender­based violence and sexual health and rights to other Deaf women.

Photo Voices: Deaf Lesbian and Bisexual Women Unite to Tell Their Stories

This was one of the first actions undertaken by the group. Communication tools based on reading or listening by the user are largely inaccessible to Deaf people who need information delivered in highly visual formats. But photographs do not necessarily require spoken or written language to communicate their meaning. Taking photographs are an essential and effective tool in assisting Deaf lesbians and bisexual women to explore, to examine themselves and their position in society and that of others.

In this project, a group of Deaf lesbian and bisexual women were given training on the use of cameras to document their experiences by photographer Jean Brundritt. The photographs they took became the basis for group discussions of Deaf lesbian and bisexual women’s community concerns.

After taking their photographs, the women had time alone to look at their printed photographs, edit and write about the content. The group met several times to share pictures and talk about what the photos meant. These discussions were used as the basis for creating captions for each photograph. Each woman selected which of her photographs, with words or without words, she wanted to include in a public display/exhibition.

 

The project created a body of photographic work and stories that has been used to create positive visibility and educate a range of public audiences, including the Deaf Community in South Africa, on the experiences of South African Deaf lesbians and bisexual women. This photographic work highlights the challenges that this vulnerable community faces.

The project also empowered a group of Deaf lesbians and bisexual women to be role models who can support and give information, advocate for their rights and combat negative stereotypes and misconceptions about Deaf lesbians and bisexual women.

One of the highlights for this group was their participation in the World Federation for the Deaf (WFD) Congress in Durban, July 2011, including a conference presentation. This presentation was the first time that Deaf lesbian and bisexual women from Africa stood up in a public space and broke the silence about their lives. The presentation by these courageous women created visibility and awareness in the Deaf and hearing communities. It also provided support and a sense of social connection to other Deaf lesbian and bisexual women in the audience.