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Susana Stiglich: Championing Sign Language Rights and Deaf Empowerment in Peru and Beyond

Susana Stiglich
Photo Courtesy: Susana Stiglich

In the heart of Peru, where the bustling city life meets rich cultural history, Susana Stiglich stands as a beacon of hope and change for the deaf community. As an educator, activist, and relentless advocate for sign language rights, her story is one of resilience, innovation, and unwavering dedication to human rights.

Born into a world of sound, Stiglich’s life took a dramatic turn at the tender age of one and a half when meningitis left her deaf. This early challenge set the stage for a lifetime dedicated to bridging communication gaps and fostering understanding between the hearing and deaf worlds. Her journey from learning to read lips and communicate through therapies to mastering American Sign Language (ASL) at Gallaudet University underscores her determination to connect with others on her terms.

Stiglich’s academic achievements—a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education followed by a master’s in family-centered early childhood education from Gallaudet University—laid a solid foundation for her mission. Today, she fluently communicates in Peruvian Sign Language (LSP), ASL, and International Sign, embodying the diversity of human communication she champions.

Her role as president of the Fundación Personas Sordas del Perú (Foundation for Deaf People in Peru) and as the Sign Language Rights Officer at the World Federation of the Deaf has positioned Stiglich at the forefront of advocacy for deaf rights worldwide. Additionally, her work as a professor teaching PSL at two universities in Lima further cements her commitment to education and empowerment through language.

Stiglich’s career spans various leadership roles that have allowed her to make significant strides in human rights advocacy. From working within local government entities like the Municipality of Miraflores to international organizations such as Trust for Americas from the Organization of American States, she has tirelessly worked towards creating inclusive policies that recognize and celebrate differences rather than discriminate against them.

Perhaps most notably is Stiglich’s instrumental role in advocating for a law recognizing Peruvian Sign Language. This groundbreaking achievement not only validated LSP as an official language but also catalyzed numerous changes benefiting Peru’s deaf community. It stands as testament to what can be achieved with passion combined with strategic action.

Beyond national borders, Stiglich has shared her expertise internationally—developing an innovative  training workshop on human rights and sign language rights topics across six Asian countries. By using International Sign and translating materials into local languages, she ensured that her message was both accessible and impactful.

One cannot discuss Stiglich’s accomplishments without mentioning the publication “Guidelines for Sign Language Rights – A WFD Advocacy Toolkit.” Released in July last year, this toolkit serves as an essential resource for activists worldwide striving to secure recognition and rights for sign languages within their own countries.

Stiglich’s influence extends beyond professional achievements; it is rooted deeply in personal experience. Growing up as the daughter of a career diplomat exposed her early on to diverse cultures around the globe. These experiences not only fostered resilience but also imbued Stiglich with empathy towards others’ perspectives—an invaluable trait that has enhanced both interpersonal relationships within diverse communities she serves.

For those looking to connect with or learn more about Susana Stiglich’s work, following her social media handle @sustiwa offers insights into ongoing projects aimed at improving conditions for deaf individuals across Peru and beyond.

In reflecting upon Susana Stiglich’s journey so far, it becomes apparent that she embodies what it means to transform adversity into opportunity—not just for oneself but for countless others who face similar challenges. Her tireless advocacy not only shines a light on issues often overlooked but also paves the way toward greater inclusivity where every voice is heard regardless of how it communicates.

Published by: Nelly Chavez

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