Address by President Nelson Mandela at the Baragwanath Hearing Aid Project

23 May 1997

Master of ceremonies;
Ladies and gentleman;

One of the wonders of the modern age is that we can overcome many of the obstacles that nature and misfortune impose on us. If we all co-operate to use the technology that is available, then there is little that can stop us.

Today we are putting the spotlight on a problem that afflicts millions of South Africans. Our Department of Health tells us that one out of every 25 South Africans are profoundly deaf or extremely hard of hearing.

All of you who have hearing difficulties know that it does put barriers in the way of developing and using your talents for the benefit of your community and society. For many it can mean a special kind of loneliness.

A hearing aid can provide a key to many opportunities.

I would like to tell you that I also wear hearing aids, just as you do. These little instruments made a big difference to my life. Wherever I go, they help me to listen better, to understand better.

I would like to encourage you to wear your hearing aids as they will help you, especially to learn. Learning is your future and it is the future of our country. Use this opportunity to help yourselves and your nation.

It needs discipline to use a hearing aid. And to get the improvements in communication that makes it possible, requires the understanding, expertise, love and dedication of many people: family; friends; members of the community; teachers; and health professionals.

I would like to take this opportunity to extend a particular word of thanks to the audiology department of the Baragwanath Hospital for their splendid work to make this project a success.

Thank you also to Siemens for their valuable contribution of the hearing aids. And we are grateful to Republic Hearing Instruments for their efforts to co-ordinate the contribution of all the other companies and service providers.

Today we also think of the many, many more people who need such devices, but who cannot get them because of the cost. This is especially so in a country like ours which is emerging from a past in which the health needs of most people were shamefully neglected.

The challenge we must all take - government, the hearing aid industry, and professionals - is to ensure that these hearing aids are within the reach of all those in need of them.

This partnership of innovation and service delivery should include those who have hearing difficulties themselves. We as users can play an important role in guiding the engineers and scientists to make the technology even more effective.

We do know that if all of us work together then we will create more and better opportunities especially among children from black communities. Let us join hands: young and old; those with no hearing difficulties together with the deaf and the hard of hearing.

Together we can make a difference. Together we can remove barriers to full participation in the new nation we are building.

I thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation