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Political participation

The right of people with disabilities to take part in decision-making at all levels, including in the electoral process, is critical if they are to influence policies that affect their lives.

Leonie presenting at her university in Cameroon.

In many countries, governance systems are not inclusive, meaning women and men with disabilities are often excluded from participating on an equal basis. In many cases, they are even denied the right to vote.

We support people with disabilities to participate in decision-making processes at all levels: globally, nationally and locally. We advocate for public policies to be more inclusive for people with disabilities, and work in partnership with disability organisations to ensure people with disabilities can make their voices heard.

Inclusive local development

Civic and political participation in local development initiatives will better ensure that local services are disability inclusive and consider the needs of people with disabilities. Our work on inclusive local development in Cameroon and Senegal has contributed to more than 204 women and men with disabilities who have either been elected as local councillors, parliamentarians, senators or official representatives in local working groups, or have been included on political party lists in a position eligible for election for the first time. In both countries, this is the first time people with disabilities have taken on these roles.

Some of the local governments where we’re working have now agreed to systematically consult with organisations of people with disabilities.

Inclusive elections

We’re promoting inclusive elections in Cameroon and Senegal. We want to ensure people can enter polling booths and cast their votes independently, have political parties represent disability issues and encourage people with disabilities to participate as candidates. We also want voters to be provided with accessible information, such as party manifestos, so they can vote. Our work has been effective at increasing the number of people with disabilities registered to vote: in Cameroon, the number of rose from 8,000 in 2011 to 40,000 in 2022.

In Pakistan, we worked with the government to make Parliament House accessible for people with disabilities by updating the washrooms and mosque and adding wheelchair ramps. The country’s constitution has also been translated into braille. Watch our video to find out more about our work in Pakistan

Citizenship

We support people with disabilities to obtain official documents such as birth certificates, ID cards, voter cards and disability cards as these are often a prerequisite to political participation. In Senegal and Cameroon, almost 3,500 people with disabilities received birth certificates, ID cards or voter cards through our project. We are also exploring ways to ensure people with disabilities are more included in other forms of civil society, such as youth movements.

Watch the video below to see how we’re fighting for better political engagement of women with disabilities in Senegal.


Sightsavers’ political participation and citizenship work in Cameroon and Senegal is funded by Irish Aid.
About our work with Irish Aid

A man writes information on paper.

Including people with disabilities in African political life

Our research shows that a lack of education and financial resources, social stigma and inaccessible physical infrastructure mean fewer people with disabilities are participating in politics in Africa.

Read the blog
Zero Project award winner 2023 logo.
Our political participation work received a Zero Project award in 2023. About the award

Resources

Reports and reviews

Sightsavers’ social inclusion strategy (2021)

This strategy sets out how we will contribute to the inclusion and empowerment of people with disabilities – globally, and in our programming countries – through our programmatic, research and influencing work.

View the strategy

Disability-inclusive elections in Africa: a qualitative systematic review

A systematic review aiming to identify, appraise and combine available evidence to understand what practices have already taken place in African countries to support the political participation of people with disabilities, and what effect they have had at local and national levels.

View the review [pdf]

We campaign for equality for people with disabilities

Join our campaign

More about our work

Nanny Powers holds her voting card.
Sightsavers Reports

Nanny’s story

Nanny Powers founded Cameroon’s National Association of Persons with Short Stature, a disability organisation for people with restricted growth.

Michel Fozeu sits at a table wearing headphones and speaking into a microphone.
Sightsavers Reports

Michel’s story

“The message we want to give through this radio show is that people with disabilities in Cameroon are able to take part in the electoral process.”

Senator Robert Oyono in his wheelchair in front of some steps.
Sightsavers Reports

Robert’s story

Robert Oyono is Cameroon’s first senator with a disability, and is calling for people with disabilities to be included in the political process.