For those who are frequent shoppers at Nakumatt, they might have come across deaf employees who express good customer care and amazing gift-wrapping skills. Thanks to the management of the leading regional supermarket which has gone against the odds by employing them and proving that their disability indeed is not inability.
In Rwanda’s two Nakumatt branches, there are three employed ladies who work mostly at the counter tasked with packing and wrapping gifts, a duty their Country Manager, Adan Ramata commends the ladies perform to satisfactory levels.
He also adds that, Nakumatt believes everyone despite challenges with their senses or disability, has potential to contribute significantly towards the society.
“We also intend to employ more deaf people since their ability is unquestionable they are so passionate with their work,” says Ramata.
“I encourage employers to give opportunities to those who are physically challenged, since they didn’t choose to be born with the weakness and have right to improve their lives like others,” he advises.
Deaf employees at Nakumatt are treated like others with benefits which include salary as per working hours, bonuses, medical insurance and job promotions.
Vestine Kubwimana one of the deaf employee expresses that she is glad to have gotten the opportunity to work at Nakumatt for more than a year now, and is proud to have improved her welfare and those of her siblings.
Through sign language she claims that her job is the most enjoyable duty that inspires her to wake up every day and perform to her best.
“I am in charge of wrapping gifts, a task I happily conduct six days a week 12 hours a day, my customers walk out impressed something that adds joy to my heart,” she remarks.
Her colleague Angelique Benedata also deaf, shares similar sentiments adding that she has developed friendly relationship with clients, especially when she is in her off days some clients text her to know her whereabouts.
“I sometimes advise my clients on the best gift wrapping paper depending on the occasion my customer wants her gift to be associated, and often they take my advice which is the best,” Benedata illustrates in a warm smile.
Interestingly the supermarket has provisions meant to ease the shopping experience of disabled persons. They have a wheel chair for example, a person in charge of guiding those who are blind, and a wheel chair ramp which makes it easier to access some of the floors.
Ramata further points out that more employees will be trained on basic sign language skills in order to facilitate clients who are deaf.
“Trust me we have several clients who are deaf and are big shoppers, they shop like us hence they too deserve better customer care.”
Nakumatt’s exemplary move to employ deaf people is highly commended by the executive director of Rwanda Deaf National Union Samuel Munana, who is also deaf. “In the past deaf people were discriminated by the society and their potentials were limited since they were not given opportunities to exercise their talents.
He also commended the ministry of local government which has supported the union through various trainings aimed at equipping members with life surviving skills and support towards some of the Union’s income generating activities including, carpentry, tailoring and basketry.
Since 2006, the Union has been effective mainly through support from Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) under a deaf empowerment program.
“We benefit mostly from trainings since the majority are not yet conversant with sign language, which I believe would put them in a better position to get employment.”
The total number of deaf people is 33, 491 according to the Union’s latest statistics gathered in 3 districts- Muhanga, Musanze and Kigali.
Among the main objectives of the Union is advocacy towards fundamental rights such as employment representation in various national programs and access to education.
“We also advocate for media to use sign language especially for TV news broadcast,” Munana recommends.