Sunghea Park, MA


Sunghea Park completed African Studies in September 2016 and has applied her MA project study outcomes in founding a local NGO, Deaf Women’s Sustainable Livelihood in Tanzania (DWSLT), as an external advisor and initial networker among relevant deaf and hearing people whom she met during her field study in Arusha, Tanzania.

Sunghea studied International Management and wrote her thesis on promoting accountability in development and humanitarian organizations, in 2011, as a master program at University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland. Before her relocation to Switzerland, she received her PhD in Health Sciences, specializing in Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences, in Japan, and worked as a speech therapist for people with communication difficulties in South Korea.  

Sunghea has an interest in inclusive development interventions for people with deafness and disabilities through investigating deaf and disability friendly environments which empower deaf people in accessing language, education, health care services and employment in vulnerable contexts. 

MA Thesis

Living as a Deaf Person in Urban Tanzania: Transformative Social Resilience Research of Deafness

Deafness has been considered as a disability and abnormality which need to be compensated by providing assistive hearing devices through medical and health practitioners. The medical approach produces a limited knowledge of deafness, as specific capacities and needs of people living with deafness can be easily neglected. The study portrayed promoting and constraining elements of deaf people in the development of social resilience in urban Tanzania, as well as the dynamic interactions between deaf people and two different types of organization: a for-profit company operating a business making handcraft products for tourists and an educational non-profit organization leading the ICT project in the deaf unit of a primary school. In the study, building social resilience in deaf people linked to accessing education, health care services and employment in order to gain a livelihood and an independent life.

Deaf people in Tanzania have confronted adversity which is mainly induced by the language and communication barrier and by a discriminative social structure, which hinders deaf people in accessing education, and consequently the deficit in education hinders them from gaining a livelihood. Sign language is a significant cultural resource of deaf people in accessing other cultural, social and economic resources. At the same time, it is a key enabling factor in developing further resources and capacity in which all elements are transformed to yield positive outcomes. Also, connectivity to the signing community and participation in a supportive organization are important elements which enable deaf people to gain better access to financial, cultural and social resources.

Deafness is a creative asset (deaf capital) with which deaf people contribute to organizational performance in producing financial, social and cultural benefits. In the particular case of a for-profit organization, sign language becomes an effective communication skill in the specific work environment with a high noise level. Deaf workers create additional value to the profit of the organization by attracting tourists through their high quality work, visualized communication at work and contribution to the reputation of a socially responsible business. Also, the visualized teaching skills of deaf staff as well as their patience and restraint under adversity experienced as a deaf person are valuable cultural resources for the educational organization in implementing the ICT project. In the study, deafness and deaf living were shown as capacities in dealing with adversity, and as a creative ability rather than dysfunction or abnormality in daily practices of deaf people. Understanding specific conditions and needs of deaf people, including the importance of sign language and social network with a signing community, would be applicable for the implementation of inclusive policy and strategies in the development sector. Also, the awareness of deaf capital and capacity could create potential economic and social opportunities for non-profit and for-profit organizations by establishing deaf-friendly projects in low and middle income countries.