By Jennifer Brookland
It’s difficult to discuss corruption when your language has no word for it.
The nonexistence of signs for words including “corruption,” “transparency” and “accountability” in Honduran Sign Language imply that deaf Hondurans have no place in the conversation about their country’s struggle for good governance.
Nonetheless, the approximately 100,000 Hondurans who are hearing impaired have plenty to say about such important topics.
One civil society organization in Honduras is making sure that the conversation about corruption is an inclusive one.
The Fundación Hondureña de Rehabilitación e Integración del Limitado (FUHRIL) uses financial and technical support from the Counterpart International-implemented Impactos program to serve as an interlocutor for people with disabilities to express themselves in favor of transparency and accountability in Honduras.
The Impactos program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, aims to increase the transparency and accountability of public institutions in Honduras.
Too important for the silent treatment
Honduras ranked 129 out of 183 countries measured on Transparency International’s 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index, which also listed the nation’s “budget openness” as “scant or none.”
An especially damaging consequence of this corruption has been the state’s inability to protect its citizens from high rates of violent crime and gang activity, which earned the country the sad distinction of being named the world’s most violent country by the United Nations.
“Despite efforts of the deaf Honduran community and other organizations, to this date there are hearing-impaired people whom remain disregarded and ignorant of all national events going on,” says Orquidea Centeno, who lost her hearing at age 15. “We have no access to justice, we have no access to information and we are invisible.”
Sketching an inclusive future
With grant money received from Counterpart, FUHRIL recently launched a campaign called “Listening is more than hearing, we are not deaf to corruption.”
The campaign seeks to increase awareness of the limitations faced by the disabled, demand services and information for them, and communicate their ideas and proposals to fight corruption.
FUHRIL partnered with the daily nationally-distributed newspaper Diario La Tribuna, which agreed to publish a monthly full-page cartoon series and weekly news banner with the campaign’s content at no cost for 10 months.
It’s a step FUHRIL Director Yolanda Dominguez calls, “a concrete accomplishment at this stage of the campaign.”
“The messages in these comic strips encourage good practices and values such as solidarity, respect and transparency,” says Dominguez.
The comic strips contain key messages that encourage those with disabilities to participate in civic actions aimed at fighting corruption. They take an inclusive approach in a place where those with disabilities are often marginalized and left out of the political conversation.
There is “total disregard towards the deaf community and the speed and subtlety with which corruption is positioned on a daily basis in the minds of our youth and children with or without disabilities,” says Dominguez.
FUHRIL’s campaign is already motivating and mobilizing people with disabilities to communicate their perspectives on issues such as the accountability of public officials.
Expanding the conversation
FUHRIL is also working with specialists—professors, designers and the Deaf Association of Honduras— to create visual interpretations of words such as “corruption,” “transparency” and “accountability,” whose creation will help deaf Hondurans demand good governance alongside their peers.
“Through the ‘Listening is more than hearing, we are not deaf to corruption’ campaign, my hope of a brighter future is reborn,” says Centeno. “My expectations through the project are, for us deaf people, to know about corruption, avoid and report it.”
By bringing all segments of the country’s population into the discussion on how to tackle corruption, organizations like FUHRIL hope they can deliver an inclusive message that Hondurans want good governance—and that authorities will hear that demand loud and clear.