Deaf people in Rutsiro District are working on acquiring sign language communication skills and taking up pig farming to ease access to service delivery and boost their socio-economic status. Gaspard Ugirumurera, the President of Kozanar- the cooperative of 45 deaf pig farmers said that members have been facing challenges in their daily communication due to lack of sign language communication skills. “Once we acquire sign language communication skills, our cooperative development will also increase. With sign language communication skills, the members will easily communicate in their daily business activities and ease their planning without difficult,” he said. Deaf people in Rutsiro district expect that acquiring sign language communication skills and pig farming will ease access to service delivery and boost their socio-economic status He said that lack of sign language skills among local leaders and the community in general has been affecting service delivery to people with hearing impairment stressing that there is need to also train various people on sign language communication basics so as to improve communication with people with hearing impairment. “As we have embarked on different income generating activities, we were in need of sign language communication skills. We have got support to venture into pig rearing. Members have got manure to improve agricultural productivity. We are preparing a new project that will employ between five and ten of our members between June and August this year,” he said. The cooperative started with 75 pigs with 28 piglets so far. “When they reproduce, members pass on piglets to new members. The member also contributes one piglet to the cooperative’s development. The initiative has contributed to Rwf900, 000 so far,” he said. He said there are over 125 deaf people in the district and therefore other deaf people should join cooperatives so as to strive for welfare with joint efforts. At least 65 deaf pig farmers from four sectors of Rutsiro Districts namely Gihango, Musasa, Mushonyi and Ruhango are set to benefit from three-month training on sign language communication skills. Over 50,000 deaf in Rwanda Samuel Munana, the Executive Director of Rwanda National Union of the Deaf said that there are over 50,000 deaf in Rwanda who need socio-economic support and therefore need sign language communication skills. “Because of their inability to read, use sign language, Deaf people may also be vulnerable to Covid-19. The majority of those engaged in pig farming activities in Rutsiro District are sign language illiterate. This highlighted to us the life-saving importance for them to be empowered in Sign language communication skills such that the information is adjusted to their situation and specific needs,” he said. He noted that this will provide them with an opportunity to access information critical to developing their socioeconomic well-being by clearly communicating, expressing themselves and understanding the prevailing circumstances of Covid 19. “Empowering Deaf persons in Sign language communication skills, he said, is expected to minimize the misunderstandings among them and help them to embrace economic recovery programs that are promoting their increased employment in order to fight poverty through pig farming,” he said. Sign language in service delivery Lack of sign language communication skills has been hindering service delivery. Munana said among those to be trained on language communication skills include executive secretaries of sectors. Local leaders have requested to introduce sign language national education curriculum and be taught in schools so that basic skills in sign language start with youngsters. Jean-Pierre Mwenedata, the Executive Secretary of Mushonyi Sector said that deaf people face different challenges including difficult access to service delivery because officials have no sign language skills. “For instance, we face challenges while presiding over civil marriage for deaf people. It requires communication when they need to learn matrimonial principles before marrying and this requires us to have sign language skills,” he said adding the sign language should be a basic skill for all people to ease communication with deaf. Emérence Ayinkamiye, the mayor of Rutsiro District said that there is need for more partners in equipping deaf and the public in general with sign language skills. He said that the district used to allocate budget to train local leaders on sign language communication skills but covid-19 has disrupted the programme. However, we are going to resume by training 75 leaders,” she said. She reiterated that sign language should also be introduced in schools. Since 2014, National Council for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) and Rwanda National Union of the Deaf (RNUD), with support from Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), embarked on a project of writing a comprehensive sign language dictionary although it is yet to be complete. The new dictionary was expected to have 2,000 signs. The dictionary, if finalised, will be a milestone as far as effective communication between people living with disability and service providers is concerned.