Developing a youth-leadership programme for deaf children in, and beyond, South Africa



Partners and collaborators

University of Pretoria, Hope and Homes for Children, Thrive, DeafKidz International


Children and young people are directly affected by systemic issues, yet they are too often absent in the processes of decision-making and planning for the societies they will ultimately inherit. Vulnerable children are frequently excluded from decisions about their lives. This includes decisions about their care, all too often being separated from their family without fully understanding why, or without being given a chance to express their opinions. This is particularly true for children with disabilities, including those that are deaf who lack access to communication in their mode of choice – sign language or sign supported spoken language.

The Youth Accountability and Deaf Inclusion in South Africa (YADIS) project, developed by The University of Leeds, University of Pretoria, Hope and Homes for Children,  One Child One Family HHCSA , DeafKidz International and Thrive, created an inclusive youth leadership programme for vulnerable children in Ekurhuleni, South Africa so that they may claim a greater voice within their communities in order to guide and support service delivery through accountability.

YADIS combined community development, arts-based leadership and participatory filmmaking, inclusive communication, knowledge exchange and advocacy for youth accountability and inclusion, with a focus on ensuring the inclusion of deaf children in a partnership that positively fostered the integration of deaf and hearing. A complementary scoping review of the literature on youth engagement, accountability, disability and care by the Centre for Augmentative and Alternative Communication at the University of Pretoria contextualised and enhanced the leadership programme.

The Centre also evaluated the programme in Ekurhuleni in order to guide policy on the development of structures and supports for inclusion of vulnerable children in South Africa in the planning and implementation of processes which impact their lives.

Other Content

The project developed and delivered around 40 workshops to deaf and hearing young people, including a number of community showcasing events to engage the relevant local groups with the issues the young people wished to raise awareness of.

The project created 40 'grass roots comics'. These are one page comics that can be pasted up in the community in order to generate local debate on relevant issues.

In this project they were also used as the starting point for the producion of 3 youth-led films, which were similarly used to raise awareness of key issues affecting the young people involved. 


The project was designed to achieve non-academic impact at 3 levels.

1) In post-project evaluation surveys it is clear that the project helped the young people involved to grow in confidence. Particularly noticable amongst the deaf participants was their feeling that the project had helped them develop a stronger sense of self-reliance.

2) The project was designed to support the strategic objectives of all the organisations involved. For Hope and Homes for Children, for example, the project was designed to support their multi-agency, locally embedded, approach to youth support. The project provided models for this, helping to generate innovative approaches to strengthening childcare systems.

3) At policy level, the project provided a forum for young people to speak directly, and in their own words, to regional policy makers. In an event in Johannesburg in September 2022, project participants set out their manifesto for childcare reform to the Deputy Minister for Social Development. This has informed a series of further meetings between the DSD and HHC. The project also informed HHC's engagement with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Rwanda in 2022, helping to shape the Kigali Declaration on Childcare reform.

Project website