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The Impressive Determination of a Life Changer

Beyioku-Alase’s story stands out as one of both significant heartache and remarkable resolution. Mother of a 27-year old deaf son, neither she nor her son was born deaf. She became deaf in 1974 through injection. In 1985, while still battling with her own trauma, adjusting to a life in a new, challenging world, her first son became deaf through measles. Her husband attributed her son’s disability to her evil luck and wanting separation from. He married another wife and asked her to leave his house. Despite pleas from family relatives, her husband insisted. “That was the man whom I had confided in,” she recalls regretfully.

Instead of resigning to a life of self-pity and agony, she developed passion to fight to improve the lives of deaf persons. “I told my husband that even if he takes my other three children; he should leave my deaf son for me.” As she left her matrimonial home with her four children, she was homeless. When her husband later died, no piece of his property was given to her and her children. Reminiscing about her past life, she simply looks to a wall where her late husband’s photo is hanging and says, “I wish my husband would still be alive to see what my son is today”.

All you need do is just ask any pedestrian, market vendor, school-child, bus or motorbike driver in Meiran, a suburb of Lagos, you surely get to her. “I am a mother of the deaf, catching them young, caring for them, preparing and moulding them in the most important ways” are the inspiring and motivating words of a woman whose absolute resolution is changing the plight of the neglected. What strikes me most is her courage. The rugged and treacherous path one must travel to her rather inaccessible place suggests the many challenges she surmounts in her everyday activities.

“You met me reading a newspaper. Every day I sacrifice my food to buy a newspaper to keep myself informed because I cannot listen to radio or television”, she says, alluding to isolation, poverty and neglect as major plights of deafness. Imagine a child who grows up neither knowing the voice nor the names of the parents. The child knows not the number and name of the street where she lives because he or she lacks the basis to pick sounds. Such isolation and challenges, she says can result in a deaf person becoming irritable and aggressive. This unfair and unacceptable situation is precisely what Beyioku-Alase is changing. In 2001, she formed an advocacy organization: the Deaf Women in Nigeria. The organization brings deaf women and their families together, provides counseling and serves as a channel for relationships between the deaf and non-deaf.

Now considered an expert in rehabilitation, counseling and teaching she has established an educational institute, the Brighter Future School for the Deaf, the second of its kind in Lagos. The institute offers a learning space to children who are otherwise denied educational opportunities. Inside, I counted 25 children beaming with smiles, welcoming me in sign language, which I only understood through the intervention of an interpreter. In this special setting, children are taught Sign Language, Mathematics, English and Social Studies. Forums are also created for co-interaction with other children. To Beyioku-Alase, education is a panacea for the deaf. It offers the gift of communication and self-expression: “what they cannot say, they will be able to write”, she says.

Children who have passed through the tutelage of Beyioku-Alase are doing well in their various homes and work places, proving the point that with education, a deaf person can live a normal life. Her deaf son teaches Mathematics in a school in Abuja. He recently got married before a party of 100 people. She regrets that most parents think a deaf child has no chance at a normal future hence they are often reluctant to release their deaf children to come to school. She fights to change this through networks with parents and the general public. She creates awareness and educates the community on the critical importance of education to the deaf.

Yet, to Beyioku, the inclusive education policy of Lagos State, which puts children with different disabilities in the same class, does not adequately provide for children with hearing loss. She argues that deaf children are unique. They often learn best by copying the skills or behaviours of those around them. Schools should put them in same classes with intelligent, non-disabled children so that they can pick up new lessons fast. Her other major concern is that teachers in schools typically are not knowledgeable in sign language. They cannot effectively teach children with hearing loss, making it all the more important that non-disabled children are in the room to model lessons for the hearing loss.

A UNDP study indicates that women with disabilities experience double discrimination, which place them at higher risk of gender-based violence, sexual abuse, neglect, maltreatment and exploitation. In Nigeria, patriarchy, insecurity and poverty promote this subjugation. Beyioku-Alase affirms that deaf women experience violence in more unique ways. The combination of challenges associated with being a woman and deaf breed negative treatments and disadvantages of all kinds. Imagine a girl who cannot communicate her experience when she is raped by her father, brother, neighbour or teacher. The Deaconess shares her experience in one of her home interventions where family members, including mother-in-law use a deaf daughter-in-law as veritable domestic slave. A physical abuse meted on her one day triggered chaos in the home, thankfully resulting in the Deaconess being invited to intervene as mediator.

In the homes of deaf women, on the street, through the length and breadth of her community and around Nigeria, Beyioku-Alase leaves her footprints in the sands of time. She is a well-known and respected mobilizer and advocate. In her church, her outstanding contributions have earned her the honor of Deaconess. She trains women in nylon and bead-making, affording them opportunity to gradually break free from economic dependency.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous new media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

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olutosin's picture

Missed Meeting her!

So Sad Story...

this is outright RIGHT abuse, gender based violence and plight of widowhood all in the life of a woman. So Sad Story.

Welldone my sister, I wanted to meet her at the hotel on Saturday but she said except I came with Seun, he refused to follow me.

May God bless Mama as she is fondly called.

I also than you Dear Sister Celine for celebrating her, its worth it!

We shall overcome someday.

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town
Lagos-Nigeria

https:

Celine's picture

Re: Missed Meeting her!

Sister Tosin you will meet her one of these days. She is an Unsung Hero and a very patient woman. She is so popular and fondly called Mama Deaf. I am happy to use her story here.

Yes my sister, women including those living with disabilities will one day overcome the shackles of challenges which subject most of them to abject poverty.

Celine.

Kristin Miller's picture

Beautiful piece!

Celine, this is a wonderful, powerful, inspiring piece you have written and shared! Thank you, thank you for welcoming your reader into the world of a change maker, showing all the challenges and discrimination she and all deaf children, as well as those with other disabilities, must overcome each day.

Congratulations to you on a job very well done. I am so proud of you and so grateful to you!

Kristin

Celine's picture

Thank you Kristin for reading

Thank you Kristin for reading my piece and for the inspiring comments.

Her determination and zeal make her unique. She is making great impacts in the life of people with disabilities. She is a changer maker, she has turned around the life of thousands of persons who are hearing impaired. I am so proud of her.

I also appreciate you my dear friend.

Celine

Dear Celine,

I was able to visualize this woman even before I saw your pictures and I was able to imagine the difference she is making in the lives of families and children in Lagos. You have shed light on another area of human rights that needs attention and have shown how it crosses over into other areas such as gender, economic viability and domestic violence.

I will look forward to a follow up story to hear how her work is moving through her students and their work.

Talk with you soon!

Christie

Celine's picture

The Champion ...

Dear Christie,

Yes, Deaconess is the champion of those living with hearing impairments especially the women and children among them. She is making a lot of difference in the lives and homes. She promises that she will never relent in her efforts until she sees justice and equal treatment for deaf children and women. She believes that if women are economically independent, children are educationally empowered, they will live normal lives and be able to defend and protect themselves in the society.

Thank you Christie.

Celine.

usha kc's picture

Celine,, so touching story

Celine,,
so touching story dear. and yes, her courage is amazing !

Celine's picture

Yes, dear Sister. She is

Yes, dear Sister. She is amazing.

Celine

BlueSky's picture

Valiant Crusader

Very inspiring Celine! It is a powerful article giving account once again of the phenomenal depth that lies within each one of us, mostly untapped until a crisis is met to unlock it. And how wonderful that the fountain springing forth from her deep is abundantly watering so many desperately in need of refreshment.

Celine's picture

Dear Sister, Yes, Deaconess

Dear Sister,

Yes, Deaconess Beyioku-Alase is a valiant crusader for the group, which are forgotten in the society. She lived in the other side before she finds herself on this side. Her experience pushed her to a motivation and determination which positively impact on thousands of lives in Lagos and beyond.

We will all be active in our various communities and locations voicing out for change, better and just treatment while working for solutions to our various challenges.

Love,
Celine.

Rachael Maddock-Hughes's picture

Inspiring

What an inspiring story! I was really touched by how she has turned her disability into a passion for helping other women and children. And your story is very much solutions-oriented! Great job! One thing I would suggest is including more statistics in your story--this helps make it even stronger!

Great job,

Rachael

"In every human heart there are a few passions that last a lifetime. They're with us from the moment we're born, and nothing can dilute their intensity." Rob Brezny

Celine's picture

Thank you

Thank you so much Rachael, I appreciate. I will improve on that in my other stories.

She is really passionate about helping the women and children who are hard of hearing. She is a strong advocate and motivator.

Regards,

Celine

emilybrews's picture

What an amazing woman!

Celine, I was so moved by this piece. You really bring across this woman's beautiful spirit - she has suffered so much misfortune, yet used every challenge as an opportunity to help others and make the world a better place.

The debate about educating disabled children in mainstream schools goes on all over the world (in the UK, too) and it is heartwarming to see her understanding that all disabilities are different, and that for many children - in this case, deaf children - the chance to not be separated from the 'norm' is crucial.

What an excellent choice for a profile - Beyioku-Alase could be an example to us all.

Celine's picture

Yes, an amazing woman

Emily, I was also moved by the works of this unsung heroine, a woman who has sacrificed her every day life to improve the lifes of others. One most inspiring thing about her is that she sees the various 'misfortunes' as a calling from a Higher Power to a cause of addressing the challenges facing deaf people. I admire her a lot.

Yes, at her level, she understands the differences in challenges peculiar to people of various forms of disabilities. I learn so much from her regarding persons with hearing loss.

I just wish there is an opportunity anywhere in the world for her to be trained so that she can be motivated the more and do more for the deaf persons. I am on the look out.

Thank you Emily. I sent a mail in your inbox.

Celine.

Debra Engle's picture

A powerful profile

Celine,

Congratulations to you for writing such a beautiful profile. You've raised many important points about the ways deaf children learn and what's needed to help educate them most effectively. You also do an excellent job of using strong quotations and specific details to make your writing come alive. Thank you for introducing us to a woman who is such a powerful and positive agent of change!

Deb

Celine's picture

Thank you Debra. I am happy I

Thank you Debra. I am happy I write on Deaconess Beyioku-Alase. She is a great teacher. I learn a lot from her regarding teaching ways for deaf children.

Yes, the VOF citizen journalist training is providing opportunity for learning, I do my best to learn from this process.

Regards,

Celine.

MaDube's picture

What a wonderful story of a a

What a wonderful story of a a brave woman who refused to give up even in the most difficult circumstances. As I was reading your story I was curious how you had interviewed her but you provided the answer when you mentioned the use of a translator. I am ashamed to say I also do not understand sign language, it is quite unfortunate because then I have created very little room for my successful and fruitful engagement with deaf women, meaning that in my personal work their voices are very much underrepresented. I hope to learn someday soon.

Celine's picture

Yes, she has a stand-by

Yes, she has a stand-by translator. The translator is one of the teachers in the school.

She has a great zeal and determination which she uses to change communities around her. Yes, at one point or the other, we need some skills to accomplish some set objectives in our works.

Happy New Year,
Celine

mrbeckbeck's picture

Remarkable

Celine, thank you so much for introducing us to Beyioku-Alase. You've told her story wonderfully here, and I am so impressed at her accomplishments. Though I imagine her work is not easy, it is so important, and gives hope to so many. I am inspired by her courage and determination to make a difference in people's lives who are on the margins of society.

Great work, and thanks again!
Happy New Year,
Scott

Scott Beck
World Pulse Online Community Manager

Celine's picture

Remarkable

Thank you so much Scott for reading the story of Beyioku-Alase. I am also impressed at her accomplishments. Yes, her work gives hopes to many of us. She makes a lot of difference in the lives of so many people, I am so proud to associate with her. I also tap from her wealth of knowledge, determination and motivation.

Happy New Year to you,
Celine

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