Out of Africa: The Spreading Self-Help Movement

by Moussa Dao (Burkina Faso), Maciste Abdoullah (Mauritania), Ousmane Issa Bourkou Sainta (Chad), Akintunde Adeyemi (Nigeria), Joseph Nsubuga (Uganda), Adeline Vekerh (Equatorial Guinea), Sami Awad Yasin (Sudan), Mrs. Diallo (Mali), Jim Caroopen (Mauritius), Anass Mohammed (Ghana), Kelemogile Watson Lekalake (South Africa), Ayodè Edith Ochoumareo (Benin)

The following short papers report on the self-help movement in several African nations. The authors are willing to answer specific or general questions about their experiences. You can post Questions/comments about the following papers to the authors before October 22, 2006.

About the presenter: Dr. Moussa Dao is a pharmacist in the West African nation of Burkina Faso. He lives in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. He has stuttered since childhood. Four of the eight children born to his mother stutter. In February 2002 he created and is president of Action Against Stuttering (abbreviated in French A.C.B.) the first association of people who stutter in his country and West Africa, and third association throughout all of Africa. He is a member of the International Stuttering Association advisory board and has participated at many meetings, presenting in Burkina Faso, Perth (Australia), Lyon and Toulouse (France), Lome (Togo). Burkina Faso
About the presenter: Maciste Abdoullah Ahmed is president of the Mauritanian self-help organization for stutterers. He writes, "I stutter when talking with relatives, friends and other people, everywhere -- at work in formal meetings, and friendly conversation. This handicap sometimes gets harder and I don't know excactly for what reason .I constantly try to improve my situation and that of other Mauritanian stutterers. We face many barriers but we must learn how to deal with our social environment. My goal is to promote mutual understanding among all human beings. I am very interested in sharing information related to stuttering." Mauritania
About the presenter: Ousmane Issa Bourkou Sainta is from Chad which is located in Central Africa. She writes, "I have stuttered since I was born. My father and mother family, my aunts, uncles, cousins also stutter. We are 4 children and I'm the second one. I'm Christian and I have my BA in English at the University of Chad. I work as bilingual secretary at the American Embassy. As a secretary, I'm all the time in touch with people and I answer phone and as a stammerer it is not easy for me, but I don't care. I do my best to give satisfaction in what I'm doing. I created a self-help group to help other stammerers to be aware and not to be ashamed of their situation." Chad
About the presenter: Akintunde Adeyemi is an undergraduate at Bowen University (Of The Nigerian Baptist Convection) Iwo, Osun State Nigeria studying Economics. Adeyemi is a severe stutterer. He is currently the editor of the SAN's monthly newsletter ''Stuttering in Nigeria''. His introduction to Stuttering corrective procedures came at the age of 17 under the direction of Mr Olatidoye Akingbade and Mr Edward D. Abiodun. A few years later he worked with many different stutterers all over Nigeria including Ivory Coast Republic of Cote D'viore to promote stuttering awareness in his country, Nigeria. He helped start the Stuttering Association of Nigeria (formely Nigeria Stammering Association) a non profit charitable organization dedicated to the prevention and treatment of Stuttering in Nigeria. Nigeria
About the presenter: Joseph Nsubuga from Kampala, Uganda, East Africa was born in 1972. He started stammering when he was three years old. He is married with two children, a son and a daughter. He currently works as a salesman. Uganda
About the presenter: I am Adeline Vekerh. I live in Equatorial Guinea and work as a teacher/counsellor in a primary school in Bata. I am 27 years old. I lived with stammering until I was 10 years old and recovered naturally without treatment as I grew. I am not a fluent speaker now but nothing stops me. I am the founder and chair person of the emerging support group in Equitorial Guinea where there are no speech therapists. Equatorial Guinea
About the presenter: Sami Awad Yasin, Ph.D. from Khartoum, Sudan, Africa, is a clinical psychologist and a member of the Sudanese Psychological Society.and the International Fluency Association (IFA). He is a Staff Counselor at the Staff Counseling and Welfare Section, U N MISSION, and also the Founder & Director of the Sudanese Stuttering Organization (SUDASO). Emails: samiyasin2@yahoo.com or yassins@un.org and Telephone (cell): 00249 9121 45915 Sudan (this paper is also indexed under the "research" section of the online conference)
About the presenter: Mrs Diallo, born Oumou Sidibe, is from Mali. She is a person who stutters. She is married and has five children. Three of her sons also stutter. Mrs. Diallo graduated from school as an executive secretary and is a member of many women's associations including Wildaf (Women In Law and Development in Africa), Women's Association Against Sexual Mutilation in Mali, and Women and Child Rights Observatory. She is currently vice president of the Women Hairdressers and Beauticians of Mali, president of the Training Committee of Craftsmen and Crafts Women of Bamako, and president and founder of the Association AVB-MALI (Struggle Against Stuttering). Mali
About the presenter: My name is Jim Caroopen, I am an accountant and I live in Mauritius. I am now a recovering stutterer. Speaking had always been a very problematic activity for me. Then in September 2005, I received a letter from Mr. Joseph Lukong of Cameroon that set me into contact with lots of people all around the world and helped me achieve tremendous breakthroughs in all areas of my life. Mauritius
About the presenter: Anass Mohammed is a journalist in Ghana trained at the Ghana Institute of Journalism where he completed in 2003. He is an alumnus of the UN University 2006 IC courses. He has worked before at the Accra Zoo in Ghana as a Zookeeper. Currently, he works as a journalist for the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation and the Muslim Searchlight Magazine, all in Ghana. Ghana
About the presenter: Kelemogile Watson Lekalake writes, "I live in South Africa. I have been stuttering since the age of four. I am a member of Speak Easy South Africa. I also established a student branch of this organization under the name Wits Students Speak Easy, during my student years at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. I am currently receiving speech therapy at the University of Pretoria in Tshwane ( formerly known as Pretoria ). I am still looking for a permanent job which implies speech is one of the tools I will need on a daily basis as I go from one employer to the other." South Africa
About the presenter: My name is Ayodè Edith OCHOUMARE, speech therapist. I was trained in Benin, in a private center which is the partner of "Institute Libre Marie Haps" of Belgium. I earned a diploma in 2001 and continued my vocational training in various settings such as the big hospital of Benin, NGO Equilibre Benin. Benin


ISAD 2005 - Burkina Faso, West Africa

by Moussa Dao
Burkina Faso, West Africa

On December 17th, we organised our fourth, and most successful Stuttering Awareness Day (ISAD). Despite numerous difficulties and lack of funding, we decided to make this event a permanent reality in our country. We didn't celebrate the real ISAD date (October 22) since it is essential for us to find a day in the 4th semester of every year to celebrate a stuttering awareness day. It is an opportunity to attract government and media attention in order to erase taboos stuttering and to sensitize the population.

This ISAD was especially successful. His excellence, the ambassador of France in Burkina Faso accepted to be our "godfather." He honoured our opening ceremony with his presence. It was the first time we welcomed this kind of VIP. We were very grateful for his participation.

This ISAD was marked by the launching of our sensitising project of teachers of several schools of Ouagadougou. This project was funded by the France embassy. The general idea of our project is : School is one of the place which could influence the evolution of children stuttering, we think that by telling teachers how to handle with CWS in their classrooms, they will improve their school year and also contribute to prevent the worsening of their stuttering.

The weeks before our ISAD, my schedule was very busy. I was doing wokshops with teachers in schools I was leading a student who was doing a study on stuttering in elementary schools. I was also very busy in my job. Obviously we had a team to organise this ISAD; but as the chief of this team and one of the person who imagined and developed the activities, I had a great responsibility as far as the achievement of activities are concerned.

I was very tired and had many worries. Sometimes, when I worked late (until 2 a.m.) and was thinking that everybody was sleeping peacefully, I had these thoughts: "Why do I involve myself into this adventure? If I didn't create this association surely I would be sleeping peacefully as others." But, when I receive encouragements from my wife and family, from an important personality such as the ambassador, from our national authorities, and when I hear moving testimonies from persons who thanks to our association their lives are positively changed, and when I hear words like: "Thanks a lot for your initiative to create this association, if it did not exist it must absolutely be created" I am encouraged to keep on going with the difficult task.

On the day of our ISAD ( december 17), all my fears rapidly decreased with the arrival of numerous persons (there was a social strike in our country). My happiness was so great when I noticed that the ambassador came without any protocol.

The opening ceremony started by my speech, then a theatre. This theatre showed the difficult situation for a stutterer during his childhood at home and school and then when he was looking for a job. After that the representative of our education minister who was not able to attend gave his speech.

After opening ceremony we started our conference. The student presented the result of her study. Then a SLP from France who live in Burkina Faso did a presentation on different speech pathology. Then I did my presentation on what is stuttering and what a teacher could do in classroom to help children (special thanks to ISA CD room project and the book of Marilyn Langevin from Canada entitled Teasing and Bulling unacceptable behaviour ). After that many persons gave their testimonies. I was so touched when my boss who is 80 years old gave his testimony. Many of our members were happy to be able to talk without fear before so many persons. The conference concluded with questions and an interesting exchange between teachers, stutterers and parents of children who stutter

After this exhausting event, I faced to the biggest challenge that I ever faced. Since last year, our national TV has a live broadcast on health problems called SANTE MAG. It is one of the broadcasts most watched by people. The guests talk about a health problem and respond to the questions of televiewers who are from Burkina and now from many other countries (our TV is now on the satellite). When preparing our ISAD I met the director of our national TV. He told me that he wanted to do a live broadcast on stuttering and he wanted me to be the guest.

I was very afraid by such a proposition and tried to convince him to give up this idea. I told him: "It would be particularly difficult for me," and asked if another stutterer or university professor could join me. I am not a specialist of stuttering. It would be good to wait when Susan Felsenfeld (Pittsburg, USA) came in May 2006, or when Sylvie ( France) came October 2006 or when Anne Marie Simon (France) came in January 2007."

The director replied: "Things change quickly here. I'm not sure to be here when they come. It would be better to do this now and take the opportunity of your ISAD. I think it is not necessary to have a specialist. Your personal story and what you told me could allow us to do a good live broadcast. I am sure that you will touch and help many people."

Hearing such words, I could not be indifferent. After thinking I decided to accept this challenge. The live broadcast occurred in February.


A New Day for Stammerers in Chad

by Ousmane Issa Bourkou Sainta
from Chad, Central Africa

Stuttering has prevented me from doing many things in my life. For example, when I was at school I was afraid and ashamed to raise my hand and answer questions because I didn't like other pupils laughing at me. I remember also that when my mother asked me to go and tell her friend something, I'd go and stay somewhere along the road and come back to tell her that her friend wasn't home.

By attending the first African Conference in Douala (Cameroon) and the Colloquia in Toulouse (France) I learned about different methods of therapy approaches and I understood my stammering better and now I'm not ashamed of my situation. I'm feel free and I dare speak in front of people.

In order to help other stammerers like me, I created a self-help group. It is not easy because people are ashamed. But we must take our destiny in own hands. Together we will fight this taboo that we undergo everyday. We must also fight ignorance and discrimination that we stammering people suffer for a long time in different places of society from people who speak easily. We must let those people know that we have right to work and have the same responsibilities as them.

Our structure is not yet big but I'm sure that people will come when they will be aware of their situation. We are thinking about a name we can give to the association. When our government will recognize the association, we will join the International Stuttering Association.


Self Help in Mauritania

by Maciste Abdoullah
from Mauritania, Africa

I would like to dedicate my presentation on behalf of Mauritanian stutterers who represent a considerable number of people.

Our situation in Mauritania is characterized by a lack of any specialized institutions, such as universities or institutes that do any research or work in field of speech-language pathology. We are in need of much information about the evolution of what is happening in this field.

We, stutterers of Mauritania are struggling in order to get out of isolation and to make our neighbors feel and care for our problems trying to understand us.

Self help is our main means through which we make the first contact with stutterers in order to make them overcome barriers. This is our new logo.

We organized many seminars and meetings through them we made sketches to attract attention of officials to our situation. During these meetings, we discussed an idea of creating an institute for language impairment that got the interest of some backers.

As a president of Mauritanian stutterers, I am working on the creation of the above mentioned institute for fluency to give stutterers opportunity of learning and improving their levels. Our efforts need to be completed to help our fellow citizens and this online conference represents a good means for doing that. I would like to express my gratitude and thanks to all of those who contributed to creating this conference that cares for stutterers through the World.


THE ABSENCE OF MODERN SPEECH THERAPY IN NIGERIA: THE CULTURE PERSPECTIVE

by Akintunde Adeyemi
from Nigeria

The cultural perspective dominant in Nigeria is that stuttering is a minor handicap when compared to blindness, muteness, paralysis and others. This cultural neglect applies not only to stuttering but also to many psycho neurological disorders. In the country, they are passing things, only to be laughed at and turned into playful philosophical jabs as reflected in this kind of proverb amongst the Yorubas who live in the South-West of the country: "How bliss to watch a mad man in the marketplace, but woe to have him as a child". This is the state of the stutterers in Nigeria; they are known only for their comic speech and not helped with the challenges of their speech condition. Hence, upon evolving into a modern society, it is no wonder that even modern educational institutions in Nigeria do not pay any attention to specific and unique psychological development of individuals at any stage of their lives. This pattern is what the whole society follows.

This paper should go down in history as the first attempt from Nigeria at digging the dark situation of stuttering into the light of attention. There has been virtually no organized attempt at putting stutterers in focus in Nigeria. This is despite the fact that about 300,000 children under five are affected with stuttering in Nigeria. Around a quarter of these children are at risk of developing a chronic stammer in adult life unless they receive speech and language therapy during the preschool years. Altogether, approximately 150,000 school age children and 600,000 adults in Nigeria stutter.

In discussing why there is an absence of modern speech therapy in Nigeria, one should put into consideration, the status of the country as a society where progressive ideas and abundant resources are not yet reflected in the quality of individual lives. Nigerians live in a modern culture where they are so harassed into a struggle for basic survival, so that every facet of human life in the country is shaped to serve necessities and not essence. Take for instance, two pre-pubertal kids who were kidnapped from a town called Ede in South-West, Nigeria but were miraculously saved returned back to school immediately after that harrowing experience. There was no counseling, no effort by anyone whether at their homes or at their elementary schools to make sure that they overcame the traumatizing experience of kidnap. In a country where child labour is still very pervasive, such kids might even be on the streets hawking packaged water immediately after being saved from kidnappers. These kids might be predisposed to stammering, because of this experience, yet one must understand the way the social environment operates so as to identify why there is an absence of modern speech therapy. Autistic children in a typical school in Nigeria face a scaring challenge early on in life. They can be labeled morons both by parents, teachers and their peers. They can even been flogged if the teacher gets nauseated by their slowness. Findings among stutterers in Nigeria reveal that at least 1 in 5 of every stutterer went through this kind of treatment. The introduction of formal education system in Nigeria has been characterized by a negative orientation towards grades and degrees. What this has meant is that many aspects of the student's development are jettisoned. Up to this time, there has been virtually no awareness or sensitization to recognise neuropsychological disorders in students at any level of the country's educational system. Hence, the Nigerian stutterer finds himself in a society only geared towards materialistic manifestation of the human individual and he is as a typical Nigerian dictum goes "All On His Own."

When compared with the development of social services or the welfare state in countries of the West, the country Nigeria has very poor 'people-care' facilities. The unstable political climate of the country as well as the unequal distribution of resources has left very little room for welfaristic imagination. One of the fallouts of this is not only the absence of modern speech therapy but also calamitously a pension system that delays the pensions of ailing frail elderly citizens. When viewed from this point, one can easily decipher the social climate of the country and subsequently understand why there is an absence of modern speech therapy in the country.

At the professional level, speech disorders are not a choice specialization for a career. They are no designated departments at any level of the county's health education and care institutions for speech and communication disorders. This dire lack of professional attention can also be pinpointed as a reason why there is no modern speech therapy in the country. Perhaps, if the degree and the widespread nature of speech disorders in the country are made more public as the stuttering association of Nigeria is trying to, more professional attention will be faced in this direction. Before now, there has been no articulate effort made by stutterers themselves. Stutterers have at best pined at the hopelessness of their situation while society jeered, went by passively or only made them into comic strips. Although, the country can count a few individuals whom despite their stutter went ahead to make a name for themselves, yet has been no concise attempt from any quarters to highlight the interaction between the individual, stuttering and society. The chorus has started however. From now, the stutter will no longer be the secretive, demure individual who considers his stutter before choosing a job career, before going to a party, or sweet-talking a girl. Our Stuttering Association of Nigeria will carry out, most prominently a liberation campaign of public enlightment about the stuttering condition in Nigeria.

As a last word, the inventive capacity of the Nigerian society is very poor. The country and indeed the whole continent have had to adapt and assimilate technology from the West. Perhaps, if the inventive capacity of the country becomes better than it is, resources and strategies will be found even within the Nigerian environment, which can help the stutterer not pine at this condition but live a life of clear tones and meanings.

In summary, the following can be identified as the causes and consequences of the absence of modern speech therapy in Nigeria.

    CAUSES:
    • The nature of our educational system is not holistic
    • Traditional people don't pay attention to stuttering
    • Social services is not at its highest stage of development
    • Little or no professional attention
    • Stutterers in Nigeria have not asserted themselves before now
    • The inventive capacity of health practioners in the country is generally poor.
    CONSEQUENCES
    • Difficulties at finding employment
    • Lack of self-confidence at public speaking
    • Discriminatory attitudes towards stutterers
    • Stuttering can be frustrating and embarrassing, in fact it can feel downright humiliating if not handled well.
To help people in Nigeria become better aware of stuttering, a one day stuttering seminar was organized at Bowen University in Iwo, Nigeria by the Stuttering Association of Nigeria, a non profit organization dedicated to the prevention and understanding of stuttering and its treatment in Nigeria.

This one day seminar was financed and organized by Mr Akintunde Adeyemi with the support of students at the University. The hall was given to us by the university free of charge and the school bus was also free for moving participants from outside of town to the venue and mostly from their various hostels to the venue. The seminar featured several special events including a video drama on stuttering shown to the participants and welcoming of participants by the officials of the seminar.

This important step to greater awareness of stuttering in Nigeria took place at the first and only Baptist University in West Africa on the 8th of April 2006. Students of Bowen University were invited to the seminar, which was the first meeting about stuttering excluding the normal stuttering awareness day programmes. The Theme of this seminar was "Talking and Fluency." The seminar was intentionally scheduled on Sunday so that it would not interrupt the weekly university activities.

Many participants shared suggestions on the development of stuttering treatment in this country and how to create more research in to it. In addition Bowen University students exchanged their experiences with the director of the suttering association of Nigeria who is also a student at Bowen University.

Many students claimed not have heard of stuttering before in their lives while the majority said they knew stuttering existed but did not pay any attention to it. Our hope is that this seminar will bring more caring for people who stutter and more support for stuttering programmes, research and treatment.


STAMMERING/STUTTERING IN UGANDA

by Joseph Nsubuga
from Uganda, East Africa

Stammering in Uganda is still a private affair and allegedly brought by failure to appease gods or failure to offer human and non human sacrifices to ancestors by the parents of the victims. Therefore there is a lot of traditional curing approaches such as worshipping at the source of big rivers, lake shores, shrines and burial sites, etc.

SOCIAL CONSEQUENCES.

There is a lot of dumping of children by the parents on the garbage heaps, streets, etc. for fear of being labeled unfaithful to the gods, spirits and ancestors.

Bullying and teasing at schools and colleges causes early school dropout by the stammering students, creating a social setback.

Job discrimination is rampant without government help.

SELF HELP AVENUES SO FAR TRIED.

My academic progress was hampered by stammering and I am currently laughed at, denied sales orders, and not invited to important meetings. I started the EASY SPEAK ASSOCIATION, an association of people who stammer with a view of addressing our problems and getting a bargaining base in early 2005. We have been getting help from BSA, ISA, SCAC, ETC. Special thanks go to MR. Norbert of BSA, Mark Irwin, S.Hoffman,and Joseph Lukong who have kept us moving tirelessly.

The EASY SPEAK ASSOCIATION provides counseling, books on therapy from organizations such as the BSA, Campaigns in schools, Radios, Churches when some money is raised and got, Magazines etc. Members are encouraged to become self reliant when academic opportunities and job opportunities are very difficult by taking practical courses such as computers or starting pig or chicken farming on the village level where marketing and acquisition of loans is easier.

HELP NEEDED IN OUR CAMPAIGN.

There are things that would be very helpful to us in our campaign such as

  • Books on stammering/stuttering from mature associations around the world.
  • Sharing of treatment methods from other associations.
  • Sharing of information on counseling.
  • Training in speech and language therapies which are almost unavailable in Uganda.
In addition to helping us get good information about stammering, it would be very helpful to help us find markets for our locally produced farm products such as red pepper, sweet potatoes, bananas, ground nuts, and cassava which will help us get funds for our survival and to finance our association to develop literature about stammering to distribute to schools.


EMERGING A SELF HELP GROUP IN MALABO, EQUATORIAL GUINEA. MY JOURNEY INTO THE WORLD OF STAMMERING

by Adeline Vekerh
from Equatorial Guinea, Central Africa

Equatarial Guinea is a small country located between Cameroon and Gabon with a population of about 540,000. It is an area where about 5300 people live with stammering. We speak Spanish as our first language. Other languages spoken are English and French. To the best of my knowledge we don't have a speech specialist here. Some people here resort to traditional treatment which has never been helpful.

A traditional healer that I once met said "to treat stammering needs patience. I associate stammering with whooping cough and use the same concoction to treat both." He further explained that one long term cause of stammering emanated from a prolonged case of whooping cough. People indeed have different beliefs about the causes of stammering.

As a counsellor in my school and because of a few cases of stammering I was following up, it pushed me to research the causes and treatment of this disorder. After consulting some traditional doctors, I discovered that their stories proved that they have never succeeded to cure any case of stammering. I thought of my own case. It could be that something helpful to my stammering happened unknown to me that has made me better today. It could be that my parents or teachers did something that helped. I then remembered that I was not teased or bullied in school. I was a very beautiful child and my parents loved me. Since my parents and others handled me in one way or the other did a good job without knowing, being conscious of the problem now I said to myself that the task will be easy for me.

When I started to address this problem of stammering as a behavorial problem, I believed that I would find a solution. I started by discovering something in the children I was following. I discovered that in these children stammering occurred in their speech but not in every situation. They say the same words well and at some time they stumble on the same words. I Started addressing this issue to the real problem of vector control. Thus, I considered fear, shame, guilt, feeling of frustration and family situation as associated effects that could be at the root of the stammering. I had a vision that with these issues dealt with without the child even knowing, a solution could be reached. All of this pushed me to navigating through the giant network - internet - where I discovered the BSA web site and that there existed an international organisation for people living with stammering.

In view of the truamatising situations children in my country have in school, I thought of setting up a support group in Bata where I live that could be an beginning for stammering support in Equatorial Guinea.

"A journey of one thousand Km begins with a step and one hand cannot tie a bundle."

We have just started off with a team of five teachers an a few parents of stuttering children. In the nearest future we will plan to get the local government authorities involved in one way or the other. The long and the short term goals of the support group are as follows:

  1. To sensitise and to promote a greater knowledge and understanding of stammering Equatorial Guinea.
  2. To be able to make contacts with stuttering organisations and speech pathologist for supplimentary help.
  3. To provide a forum for exchange of concepts and experiences in stuttering.
  4. To help represent the interest of Stutterers in Equatorial Guinea and
  5. To put stutering on the state's agenda to ensure that the needs and challenges faced by people who stammer are considered in the state context.

Support Group News - Priscilia's Birthday.

This is a picture of Pricilia and her friends. Priscillia is wearing the white hat. It is her birthday. Priscilia is a daugther to one of our parents and a pupil of my class. She is 13 years old and stammers, sometimes severely. She celebrated her birthday with her friends as you can see in the picture below. I was invited to the party. My presence at the ocassion made Priscilia very comfortable because she was always close to me in school. I encouraged her to address her friends in a short speech and it was very wonderful. Though she stumbled over many words, her friends smiled and applauded. It was indeed great fun and drew the children to accept Priscilia's stammering.

I thank everyone joining in to share experiences together and please feel free to share your comments. I will continue to learn.


Association AVB-MALI (Struggle Against Stuttering)

by Diallo Oumou Sidibe
from Mali, West Africa

The Republic of Mali is located in West Africa with a population of 11,677,000 inhabitants. The country is continental with no access to the sea. The head of state is Amadou Toumani Toure. I have seen the self help for the first time during the toulouse stuttering conference. I have been impressed by the group and on my way back to Bamako, I discussed the advantages with my association which agreed to take action starting with the active members who can form the test group. This test group is composed of 13 members divided into 2 groups of six. The first group is meeting every Saturday of each month and the second every third Saturday.

The first Saturdays are the general meeting periods. During each meeting participants are informed about the various activities and together we debate different issues in a very out going and calm atmosphere with no particular focus on being a stutterer. We are exchanging our points of view and listening to each other find solutions to our problems. One "Chief of village" is nominated during each meeting to coordinate the debate. Most of the time problems discussed are about stuttering such as social environnement, personal suffering, common strategies to be used, and solutions for attracting public attention to stuttering in general.

Most of the members of our group have improved their communication because they were obliged to talk in front of the group where they could do so without shame or humiliation. The association has made big progess by advertising on the national radio station. We hope to spread our experience and activities to the rest of the regions of Mali outside the capital city Bamako.

The self help creation in my country is very important for stutterers. There are no private or government facilities to help stutterers. In Mali Stutters have lost faith in themselves and this situation have been a serious handicap. Most of them are living on the edges of society.

The lack of communication between stutterers and people who don't stutter in our society can breed frustraction and misunderstanding. Our association is struggling today to eliminate this type of situation. We are bringing new spirit among stutterers to see life differently, to help each other, to love each other, to teach everybody that being a stutterer is not a big handicap. They need to exchange information and be positive. They also need to be helped and understood. They should get a positive perception of life and create a chain of solidarity world wide. No stutterer can live by himself from now on. Let's fill the future with hope and try to make people realize that being stutterer can be a serious issues if appropriate actions are not taken to help those people suffering from the lack of communication.

We are very limited financially. Othewise our association could have made some presentation or some shows to bring people's attention to this serious problem. However, I can say that the group "self help" can give another feeling, another look at the stuttering problem and I hope this can bring the light and hope to others who stutter in my country and around the world. Good Bless. Thank you.


Parole d'Espoir - from stuttering to freedom

by Jim Caroopen
Mauritius, Africa

I was aware of the existence of self-help groups for persons who stutter abroad and gradually began to cherish the hope of launching a group locally. After much reflection and hesitation, I called La Vie Catholique - the only newspaper I knew would publish an advertisement for free. I connected with Sandra Potié and contrary to what I had feared she showed great interest in our project. On the 1st of October 2005 an attractive advertisement was published inviting persons who stutter - including their friends and families - to an information meeting to be held October 13th.

We were expecting 4-5 persons to attend but were surprised by an attendance of over 15. I introduced myself, for the very first time stated in public that I am a person who stutters. I also introduced Mark Irwin, the president of the International Stuttering Association who was traveling through Mauritius. He explained about self-help groups and how it could benefit stutterers in Mauritius. I translated everything into Creole. All those present were very attentive with many questions and comments. Before leaving we agreed to hold our first meeting on the 22nd of October - international stuttering awareness day.

Our self-help group is not a permanent one, but has a limited number of meetings - usually 16. We divided the program into three phases: 1 - acquire, 2 - transfer and 3 - maintain. In the first phase, the longest one - around 10 meetings - we get to know each other and we work on acquiring techniques to regain control over our breath and speech. We practice breathing and relaxation exercises, slow flow reading, picture reading and group discussions. Members are also invited to practice the exercises at home and to make notes on a follow-up sheet.

At the end of this phase, we evaluate - both in group and individually - the achievement of each member and the progress that remains to be done. The means to attain these are identified and highlighted. By that time the group has become homogeneous and members readily help each other - most of the time without being aware of doing so. By that time also, all members have acquired basic knowledge about stuttering and know what means are available to them in order to attain more fluent speech. They then take their speech fluency into their own hands.

During the remaining meetings, we perform the same exercises paying attention to the ways to transfer this confident way of speaking into our daily life. During the last phase, we think about how we will maintain our achievements even without the help of a self-help group. Our self-help group also has a library facility for further reading. We are very thankful to the Stuttering Foundation of America for their contribution of books and DVDs.

The objective behind the structure of our programme is to give members the opportunity to interact with fluent persons outside the group, once they have acquired sufficient confidence in their speech. Also, due to the fact that we have no permanent structure - in terms of meeting place etc. - this way of functioning is very convenient. To date, we have run 2 batches and are planning to launch a third batch early in 2007. On December 17th 2005, our group decided to take the name of Parole d'Espoir - literally "Hope for our Speech". You may contact us at parole.espoir@yahoo.com.

Below are three short reports from current members of our group.

My name is Alain Kwan (alainkwan@intnet.mu). I am 45 years old, and I am married with two children: one boy of 20 years and a girl of 16 years. I am a Sales Supervisor in a private sector company and I believe in God.

What motivated me to join the group was that I had enough of not being able to effectively communicate my views to others. Very often, due to my stuttering problem, I avoided arguing with my subordinates and preferred to remain silent during management meetings. I suffered a lot from this situation and my prospects of professional advancement were hindered.

At first it was not easy for me to admit that I stutter but as the weeks passed I was transformed and became conscious of what led me to stutter. Slowly I gained confidence and learned how to control my feelings and emotions. Through the books I read, I learned that fear is a normal feeling but it can be overcome.

During the meetings, I practiced breathing exercises, reduced flow reading exercises, and relaxation exercises. All these helped me gain confidence. It was also beneficial to meet and interact other persons in the same situation and strong solidarity links were created between us.

I have achieved a lot thanks to Parole d'Espoir. I am a confident, enthusiastic and optimistic person and this has extended to my family and colleagues. I am practising exercises regularly and realize that there will be some situations where I still might stutter.

I am Angelè (ngel_mel@yahoo.com) and am 22 years old. 18 years of my life have been based on fears, uncomfortable situations and silence. From the age of 4, I was different from others. I was afraid to open my mouth and speak because of others' reactions. Today, most of these fears have melted away; I'm not saying all because the feeling of being a person who stutters remains. However I'm doing my best to say "I used to be a stutterer".

I tried several speech therapies but quit when I found no improvement. The best course of action I could envisage at that time was to stay silent or say few words. Avoiding situations where I had to speak was the only way for me not to feel inferior from others. My mum encouraged me to become more open about my stuttering by reporting about a self help group in Mauritius in "La Vie Catholique", a weekly newspaper. With little conviction I told her to phone the contact person.

With this phone call, my life started to change. The day I saw other people like me, having the same problem, I understood that it was time for me to do something about my stuttering. The self-help group "Parole d'Espoir" was just what I needed.

I've learned how to breathe and how to control my breathing. Saying vowels loudly and slowly also help to regain the control of my speech. I've learned to slow down and to breathe deeply before each sentence. This group was not only a place to learn about oneself but it was also a place to relax and regain trust in ourselves.

However it was not always easy to speak fluently. It was like a dance step; one step forward, two steps backward, two in front and one back. But I was never discouraged for long. My objective was to speak clearly so that I make myself understood by others. My desire to pursue a university education and beome a professional woman was increasing greatly.

And today I am proud of myself. Although the journey is difficult and not yet completed, I have acquired better speech. But more importantly, I regained trust in my actions, in my words and especially in myself. I remain convinced of my ability to overcome my stuttering and I am sure that I will soon say, "I used to be a stutterer."

Whoever you are, stutterer or not, believe in yourself and in your abilities to overcome your fears and your problems. Being a person who stutters does not mean that you are inferior from others or abnormal; you are just like any person. Just search and you'll find how great you are and how far you can reach.

Hi, I am Yasvin, 19 years old and I live in Phoenix, Mauritius. I have been stuttering since my childhood. I am a shy person and usually avoid talking to strangers or to those not close to me. However I live like a normal person within my family and friends, smiling, joking and of course stuttering without caring. Till now I had shared my problem with only two of my close friends. Nobody else is aware that I am sharing it to you through this article except my friend Shameer. I believe the reason for which I don't confide is the fear of pity; I can't stand people feeling sorry for me. And also, even talking about my stutter is painful for me and makes me feel inadequate. I use my own techniques to communicate, by using my hands when explaining or starting my sentences with "huemmm".

When I pray, I always ask for a cure for my stuttering but until now nothing has really happened. As I avoid going out to meet people, I spend a lot of time surfing on the internet. I researched stuttering and met Keith Boss through a Yahoo support group (http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/stutteringchat). He is a recovering stutterer who lives in the UK and helped me a lot in regaining confidence I myself.

Through e-mails we became close friends and shared our life experience. I told him that there was no self-help group in Mauritius that could help me. Within five days he surprised me by tracing out a support group here in my island, "Parole d'Espoir".

I immediately contacted Jim who invited me to join the group. On the day of the first meeting, I realized that I would have to go alone there - something I was not used to. But with the support of my parents I finally joined the group and met other people who stutter.

I have attended meetings regularly for three months. I have been learning techniques to control my speech. We have relaxation sessions and learn how to breathe when talking. Jim showed us how to talk slowly and smoothly without any rush and what to do when we have blocks in our speech. I am very grateful to "Parole d'Espoir" thanks to which I have learned many things that will help my in my daily life. There are no magic pills for stuttering, the only treatment is speech therapy.

My message to persons who stutter is: Don't think that you alone in the world if you have a stuttering problem (like I used to think before). I believe that every person wherever he is has his abilities and importance in this world and whatever happens, life continues, so live the way you wish without fear.

I have created my own website and wish to interact with people all around the world. Anyone interested to joining me and my friends can contact me on somootee@yahoo.com or you can visit my webpage on http://stammer.atspace.com.


Stammering in Ghana

by Anass Mohammed
Ghana, West Africa

It has been difficult or better still challenging if one analyzes how stammering has played into his life. I however do not think I am alone in encountering these challenges which probably comes from the general belief of people.

BELIEFS OF PEOPLE CONCERNING STAMMERING

Before I proceed with some beliefs peculiar to particular ethnic group(s) in Ghana, let me give you the general beliefs about stammering. These appear to have lost their origin. And like folklore, it is not too easy to trace their origins. First, there is the belief that if you stammer, and you cultivate the habit of picking and eating any food you find on the ground, irrespective of the hygienic status of the ground, you will be "healed" from stammering. I must say that there was almost no pressure on me to practice that when I was young and because I personally do not believe in just any belief, I hardly practised eating any such foods. But in the course of my interaction with someone who has a brother who stammers, he confessed that his family had pressured the brother to eat any food he saw on the ground since the time he was young. And that though the brother practised that faithfully till he became an adult, well above twenty, his stammering has not disappeared.

There is also the belief that stammerers are very quick tempered. I am not too sure if I am one because I hardly get angry unnecessarily. The origin of this belief also unknown and the belief itself is unsubstantiated, as far as I am concerned. But since a lie repeated with zeal over time gains credibility, many people now identify with this ascertion.

Some also are of the belief that stammering is associated with lying. Thus any time you are asked a probing question and the answer comes stammeringly, then you should take that answer with a grain of sand. It is likely not to be the truth or the whole truth.

ETHNIC BELIEFS

Among the major ethnic groups in Ghana, there seem to be no beliefs that discriminates against the stammerer. At least among the Ga-Adangme who occupy the capital, Accra, the Ewes who are the majority in the Volta Region of Ghana and even among the Nzemas of the Western Region, the Dagombas of the Northern Region and the Kassena of the Upper East Region.

But among the Akans who are about 35% of the total population of Ghana, a stammerer cannot be installed chief even if he is the most suitable candidate. Probably this tradition exists because the Akans see themselves as great talkers and it would be embarrassing to have a chief who is not fluent. I personally find it difficult to share this tradition simply because in the Akan set up, the Chief speaks and hears through his linguist. It is even widely acknowledged among many analysts that linguists are better talkers as compared with the chiefs they represent. In fact, whether a chief is a stammerer or not, is largely inconsequential in my view because he will always speak through someone. But the belief or tradition still exists.

These have been some of the beliefs of Ghanaians in general. And as a stammerer one has to live with them and accept them as part of the hazards of their disability.


South Africa

by Kelemogile Watson Lekalake
South Africa

I cannot remember if I ever told my parents that it wasn't their fault that I stutter, because I was convinced of this at one time.

There came a point when I was growing up, that I built some sort of wall around myself. I was a Person Who Stutter ( PWS ), and still am. I did come across a Speech Therapist, who only occasionally visited the nearest town to me, about eighty kilometers from my home, when I was fourteen years old, but I thought I was the only one who stuttered, no matter how many times I heard information about stuttering in the media or through a word-of-mouth. I became quite anti-social, unnecessarily. I didn't do well in groups. I was trying to avoid social pressures and peer-pressure as a Black South African. I moved around from the village to the farms to the township to the city, and the cycle went on.

When I was 20, I finally met several people who stutter, gathered in the same place at the fifth World Congress for PWS in Johannesburgh, South Africa. I was very surprised to see them doing almost everything amongst themselves.

I then had an opportunity to attend a National Stuttering Association ( NSA ) convention (we call them a congress) in Chicago, USA, when I was twenty one years old.

South Africa is both the First and Third World country, with a similar percentage of middle class society in-between. This is an issue which poses challenges to the smooth running of our national stuttering body and makes me wonder if what I observed working almost perfectly in Chicago, USA, and Australia, or for the SCAC, a stuttering society of Cameroon, when I was there attending the first African Federation in October of 2005, can be duplicated in South Africa.

I have started attending the Speak Easy self-help meetings in Johannesburg, South Africa. I am currently attending the meetings in Tshwane (Pretoria ) where I reside. I can now mark a change in my speech fluency ever since I started attending.

We will go to Croatia, for the International Stuttering Association Congress in 2007. I hope the Congress returns to Africa in 2010 and meets in South America in 2013, where we will measure progress since International Stuttering Awareness Day began in1998.

I sincerely appreciate all those who are committed to spreading awareness of stuttering both locally, where they are, and also internationally, impacting positively those they don't know, contrary to the prevailing philosophy that one mustn't talk to strangers.

Realeboga, Siyabonga, Ndzi-khense-ngopfu, Dankie, Ndi-a-livhuwa, Ngiyathokoza, Mmoja-ke! (the seven words/phrases reflect some of the eleven official languages of South Africa). All of they can be translated "Thank you."


Benin

by Ayodè Edith OCHOUMARE
Benin, Africa

I have started working in medical centers in order to promote speech therapy because that medical subject isn't known by the people in Benin. I participate in several ways and means to promote speech therapy. I participate in and lead many associations (Hope of Stutters, Ortho Benin, Equilibre- Benin, La Chrysalide). We organise conferences and holiday camps at minimum charge for people who stutter. I participated to the states conference about deafness at Cotonou in July 2003, the first African conference about stuttering at Douala in October 2005 and other meeting in my country and in foreign countries. I also train teachers and people in charge of rehabilitation or readjustment of persons suffering of stuttering in local areas. I am in contacts with many therapists (Belgian, French, Swiss, Congolese, Cameroonian and Togolese) in order to exchange experiences. You can get in contact with me. This is my address: Ayodè Edith OCHOUMARE
03 BP 696 Cotonou BENIN
Phone: (229) 21 38 29 07
Cell: (229) 95 40 48 52
(229) 97 09 24 11
Email: echedith@yahoo.fr


You can post Questions/comments about the above papers to the authors before October 22, 2006.


Note: the map above is included with permission of World Atlas (www.worldatlas.com).