Being the first from Pakistan this year, ConnectHear, a young social entrepreneurial start-up, has been honored with The Diana Awards for going above and beyond in their daily lives to create and sustain positive change.
“Growing up, I saw my deaf parents struggle with communicating with the outside world. I saw raw talent go unrecognized because of the barrier that is language. Using that as a motivation, we aimed to create a platform to eliminate this communication gap and help the deaf people reach their potential,” said Azima Dhanjee.
Inaugurated in the remembrance of Diana, Princess of Wales, the award is presented by the charity of the same name. It hopes to develop and inspire positive change in the lives of young people through three key programs which include; a mentoring program for young people at risk, a youth-led anti-bullying ambassadors campaign, and a prestigious award that recognizes young changemakers worldwide.
The late Princess’s sons, Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex have both pledged their full support to the awards that started in 1999 and have since acknowledged over 48,000 young people across the globe.
Arhum Ishtiaq, Azima Dhanjee, Areej Al Medinah, Zainab Syed, Syed Talal Ali, and Sadaf Amin from ConnectHear, in Pakistan, have been recognized with the highest accolade young people can achieve for Social Action or Humanitarian Efforts – The Diana Award.
ConnectHear is a social entrepreneurial start-up, incubated at the Nest I/O in Pakistan, led by aspiring youth who are working for social inclusion of the Deaf Community through Sign Language interpretation services.
Talal Ali expressed the need to bridge the communication gap between deaf and hearing society. He further stated,
Creating inclusive content for the Pakistani Deaf Community has granted me the right to learn more about them and their potentiality. It has made me more compassionate and tolerant.
Zainab Syed highlighted,
I feel that it is our responsibility to ensure that deaf people are understood and granted unconditional access to the same opportunities as we are. It is important to quash the narrative that deaf people are incapable, when they are competent, can feel, be seen, and therefore should be welcomed.
Pakistan has approximately 10 million individuals with some level of hearing loss, and less than 1% have Sign Language interpreters. ConnectHear’s remote and instant video Sign Language interpretation service is the first to cater to these individuals located throughout the country.
“As a Sign Language instructor, I have always wanted to help more people learn the language of the deaf,” Sadaf Amin brought forward.
Because the community stands in need of feeling embraced, listened to like someone made the effort to learn to communicate with them in their tongue.
The start-up is also involved in encouraging Sign Language literacy and awareness through training and certification of professional Sign Language interpreters. Through their services, they speak for inclusion in the community’s academic institutions, professional environments, and social events, and hopes to reshape the way in which deaf people are received and perceived in Pakistani society.