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The Honorable Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen, a Gallaudet alumna who in 1999 became the first deaf person to be elected to the South African Parliament, has been elected vice president of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), alongside President-elect Colin Allen. The elections were held July 18 on the opening day of the XVI World Congress of the WFD in Durban, South Africa. Both will serve four-year terms, ending in 2015.

Newhoudt-Druchen earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from Gallaudet in 1992 and a master of social work degree from the University in 2005. Returning to South Africa in 1994, she put her social work and leadership skills to work for a local organization, Deaf Community of Cape Town. She was later hired as provincial director of the Deaf Federation of South Africa, where she went on to serve as national chair and president.

In 1999, she was elected to the South African Parliament on the nomination of the organization Disabled People of South Africa. During her tenure as a member of Parliament, she has chaired the body’s Joint Monitoring Committee on the Improvement of Quality of Life and Status of Children, Youth, and Disabled Persons.

Newhoudt-Druchen previously served as a board member of the WFD and was president of the XVI WFD Congress Organizing Committee.

The recognition she has received for her achievements in promoting the rights of deaf people includes an Outstanding Young Alumnus Award from the Gallaudet University Alumni Association. Newhoudt-Druchen gave the Commencement address at Gallaudet in 2009, when she also received an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University.

“I am proud to count a leader of Ms. Newhoudt-Druchen’s caliber among our alumni. Her pioneering energy has and will continue to propel the global deaf community forward,” said Gallaudet President T. Alan Hurwitz, who is currently attending the WFD Congress. “The World Federation of the Deaf could not be in better hands, and I look forward to working with her and Mr. Allen over the next four years.”

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