This Kashmiri Teen is Giving a Voice to Those Who Cannot Speak

Sixteen-year-old Arwa is a translator for hearing and speech impaired sportspersons in Kashmir.

Updated24 Feb 2018, 10:27 AM IST
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3 min read

Camera: Masrat Zahra
Video Editor: Ashish MacCune

Sixteen-year-old Arwa recalls how, while growing up, she couldn’t understand what her mother was saying. Her mother, who cannot speak, would talk to in her sign language. But nobody in Arwa’s joint family could understand her.

My mother would often struggle with us. She couldn’t understand us, nor could we gauge what she wanted to tell us. I saw that my father and grandparents had stopped responding to her properly. Seeing that, I decided to learn the language and understand her and help her.
Arwa Imtitaz, translator 

Arwa lives in Srinagar and is a translator for hearing and speech impaired sportspersons in Kashmir. When she was studying in class 5, her uncle started giving her lessons in sign language.

Now, Arwa serves as a translator for her parents. She talks to her mother in sign language and helps her out after school hours.

Arwa started learning sign language to communicate with her mother. She is the only one besides her mother in her entire joint family who knows the language. 
Arwa started learning sign language to communicate with her mother. She is the only one besides her mother in her entire joint family who knows the language. 
(Photo: Masrat Zahra)
Seeing my mother struggle, I felt that even the sportspersons with speech and hearing impairment must find it hard. These talented people need a platform to showcase, but didn’t have sign language coaches. No one who could talk to them in their language. That’s why I decided to help them and be their voice.
Arwa Imtiyaz 

She is only in class 10, but has a responsibility of over 250 speech and hearing impaired sportspersons registered with the Jammu and Kashmir sports association.

Arwa is a translator for almost 250 Kashmiri sportspersons. She doesn’t get paid for this job, yet she does it out of her desire to help them.
Arwa is a translator for almost 250 Kashmiri sportspersons. She doesn’t get paid for this job, yet she does it out of her desire to help them.
(Photo: Masrat Zahra)

Her days are spent translating the coach’s directions for the players. Her house is often occupied with adult men and women who want to do something in the field of sports.

Arwa’s father, Imtiyaz Ahmed, is an auto rickshaw puller. He can barely afford Arwa’s tuition fee.
Arwa’s father, Imtiyaz Ahmed, is an auto rickshaw puller. He can barely afford Arwa’s tuition fee.
(Photo: Masrat Zahra)

It hasn’t been easy for Arwa to balance her studies and her responsibility as a translator. She has to miss school sometimes to accompany teams to the stadium and for nationals taking place in other states. She doesn’t get paid for this job, yet she does it out of her desire to help them.

Arwa's father Imtiyaz Ahmad is an auto driver. He says he is proud of what his daughter is doing.

My aim is to become a doctor, but my father can’t pay my tuition fees. It’s now up to God. Maybe, I will be a doctor one day with the help of prayers.
Arwa Imtiyaz

Arwa is hoping that the government would come forward and help her in her endeavour.

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Published: 24 Feb 2018, 08:53 AM IST
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