Charlene Ruto graduates in sign language with unique sign name
In May 2023, Ms Charlene Ruto, one of the daughters of President William Ruto, caught the attention of social media users across Kenya when a video of her conversing in sign language with deaf individuals went viral.
This heartwarming display of inclusion and empathy marked the beginning of her journey into the world of Kenya Sign Language (KSL).
At an event she attended, Ms Ruto engaged in sign language conversations with deaf individuals, a skill she had acquired with the help of her friend Nick Tolina.
She shared her experience on social media, stating, “My friend Nick Tolina also taught me how to introduce myself using Kenyan Sign Language to deaf persons who attended the launch. #KenyanSignLanguage is unique as it shows interpretations of various Kenyan expressions we use in daily interactions. We were taught and corrected on the usage of major representations of words, and I was assigned a sign name that the deaf persons would use during our interaction.”
Ms Ruto further explained the significance of a sign name in sign language, describing it as a representation that facilitates communication, making it more efficient and personal.
Sign names are often assigned based on a person’s personality or a memorable feature.
On September 10, 2023, Ms Ruto proudly announced that she had graduated with a certificate in KSL following three months of dedicated study and practice.
“I couldn’t be more proud of myself! When I met Babelyn Mukila earlier this year, and she communicated to me purely through Kenya Sign Language, it sparked my interest – not only in the language but more in the deaf youth, the deaf community, and the deaf culture. I have come to develop such a passion and love for the Deaf people,” Ms Ruto expressed.
Learning sign language proved to be a rewarding experience for Ms Ruto, as she explained, “Learning KSL exercised a part of my brain I never knew I had before, tested my patience and discipline, and stretched me.”
Ms Ruto expressed her gratitude to those who supported her in her journey, including Youla Nzale – a popular TV sign language anchor/interpreter – for organizing her classes, her patient teacher Rosemary Indeche, her examiner Washington Akaranga, as well as other deaf youth who helped her practice.
In closing, Ms Ruto announced her continued commitment to learning sign language, stating, “P.S. I have already started my advanced course in KSL. It’s game on!”
According to the Kenya National Population Census of 2019, there are 153,381 deaf individuals above the age of 5 in Kenya, with the majority residing in rural areas.