Kwemal and Maina’s Story

Stories | September 24, 2019

Kwemal, 55, and Maina, 24, are a mother and daughter living in Vanuatu. Both are deaf. Like most countries in the Pacific, Vanuatu has no formal and shared sign language.

Without a formal sign language, Kwemal and Maina communicate through some basic home sign and lip-reading. Outside of their community, few people know they are deaf and they find it difficult to communicate and participate. Even within the deaf community communication is limited; due to lack of a common sign language, each person has their own version of home sign.

Kwemal left school in year five as no sign interpreter or extra teaching assistance was available to her. Despite her incomplete education, she has always had a job and now runs her own successful tailoring business.

Maina left school in year one. Similar to the experience of her mother, with no sign interpreter and no extra teaching assistance, the opportunity to equally participate and advance her education was never available to her. Without an education, Maina has only held one job. She worked for four months at a retail store, but experienced harassment in the workplace. She quit her job and hasn’t wanted to return to work since.

Maina feels happiest when she is with friends, family and playing football. In the future she wants to go back to school, but says she needs an interpreter to help her understand the classes and communicate with the teacher.

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