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    Participation, equality, and justice in Rwanda for people who experience communication disability: achieving Sustainable Development Goal 16

    Barrett, Helen and Marshall, Julie ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8860-2951 (2023) Participation, equality, and justice in Rwanda for people who experience communication disability: achieving Sustainable Development Goal 16. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 25 (1). pp. 136-140. ISSN 1441-7049

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    Purpose: The right to communicate, by any means, is key to participation in peaceful and just societies. Participation relies on societal equality which, in turn, depends upon consensus that everyone has the same rights, as well as responsibility to uphold the rights of all. People who experience communication disability are, however, often invisible, misunderstood, stigmatised, and under-enumerated, particularly in resource-limited settings, including humanitarian contexts. A lack of identification and understanding of needs exclude this group from equal societal participation and exposes them to risks, including sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), which has no place in a peaceful, just, and fair society. In this commentary we explore the importance of the full inclusion and participation of people who experience communication disability, to the fulfilment of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16. Result: There is a lack of specialist assistance for people who experience communication disability in resource-limited and humanitarian contexts. A broader approach to community and service-provider capacity-building on communication disability demonstrates potential to build stronger institutions and increase societal inclusion and participation, thereby reducing exposure to risks, such as SGBV. Such approaches include increasing public understanding and use of accessible communication strategies, as well as addressing negative attitudes/behaviours and fear. Conclusion: Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) must be prepared to expand their spheres of influence and develop long-term relationships with stakeholders who can instigate change. This may involve de-emphasising our SLP credentials, instead rebranding ourselves as inclusion specialists, with a focus on communication disability. Increased inclusion, participation, and protection are achievable for people who experience communication disability if they are understood, counted, and served appropriately. This requires alignment of communication rights agendas with international development priorities. As such, this commentary paper focuses on peace, justice, and strong institutions (SDG16) and simultaneously addresses aspects of good health and wellbeing (SDG 3), gender equality (SDG 5), reduced inequalities (SDG 10), and partnerships for the goals (SDG 17).

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