Happy International Day of Sign Languages!

Updated: September 2018

September 23, 2018, was the first recognized International Day of Sign Languages. In honor of the event, IFES Inclusion Fellow Habmatu Buli recorded a message in Ethiopian Sign Language. The English translation is available below.


Hello, Selam!


[In American Sign Language] My name is Habtamu Buli. I am Former Director of Ethiopian National Association of the Deaf and second-year graduate student of international development program at Gallaudet University.  As Part of my academic requirement I am taking practicum at International Foundation for Electoral System (IFES) here in Virginia [Washington, DC metro area]. To mark the International Day of Sign Languages, I would like to use my country's Ethiopian Sign Language.


[In Ethiopian Sign Language] Selam, Happy International Sign language Day!


As you know, last year UN declared September 23 as International Sign Languages Day. Prior to the International Sign Languages Day declaration, we celebrate International Week of the Deaf annually from September 23-30 by organizing different events. However, this year celebration of international week of the Deaf marked as a double achievement and celebration because of the recognition of sign language across the globe.


We celebrate this year International Sign Languages Day in the theme of "With Sign Language, everyone is Included!"


Deaf people around the globe face different problem such us; discrimination, social and economic inequality and exclusion from political participation. As born and grow up in a low-income country, I experienced those challenges as well. For example, In Ethiopia, there was lack of accessing election news and campaign, lack of electing for public office, lack of getting information on voter registration card and many more. But, in the 2010 Ethiopian election, we started fighting for our rights. Ethiopian National Association of the Deaf in collaboration with the local media mobilized and promoted Deaf people to take their voter registration cards and elect their official representative.


Since that time, there is an improvement, but still, there are lots of challenges. We Deaf people have to fight for our right by influencing as many governments as possible to legally fulfill their obligations, reflecting the principles of the [United Nations Convenion on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities] CRPD in its recognition of sign languages as equal to spoken languages, emphasizing sign language as a critical prerequisite to the full realization of human rights for Deaf people. Together we can create a peaceful world which everyone is included.


Finally, I would like to wish you a happy International Day of Sign Languages.


Thank you.