“I have been an assistant lecturer at the higher education college since 2012. I teach the history of international relations and the methodology of history. And before this [October 2018] election, I never voted.
“The problem was the distance between my neighbourhood and the place where I was supposed to be registered – the polling station was far from my home, it was not near the road and I was obliged to go there with another person. [In the run up to the 2013 parliamentary election] when I listened to the radio, they said that you could be registered everywhere and vote everywhere. This would have been easy for me because there is another centre near my home.
“I went to register there but they refused because I was living elsewhere; they told me I had to go there and be registered. I don’t know if the info on the radio was incorrect or if it was the agent who didn’t know how the system functions. But I was not alone. I was with other blind people, around five, that day. All of us left without being registered.
“Generally in our society, when a person with a disability wants to do something, people don’t see it as important. When you want to go to school when you want seek a job, when you want to participate in political activities, generally people don’t see the importance of your action.
“The stigma is that in our society, many people consider a disability as an act of witchcraft… Or the cause might be the sin of the mother. They consider you responsible for your condition, so society in general doesn’t see the importance of making things in your favour.
“Thanks to the fight of disabled people, thanks to the fight of NGOs, some progress has been made. But not enough to change the mentality of people. It will be a pleasure for me to vote for the first time, thanks to Sandra [Sightsavers’ social inclusion programme officer] – she tells me she will help me to be registered.
“I think if there is a wide mobilisation of the vote among disabled people, it can change things in our country.”
In Cameroon people with disabilities are legally entitled to vote. Yet many of those who want to participate in choosing their political representatives find they are unable to exercise this right, excluded by a series of obstacles both practical and social. Since 2011, with funding support from Irish Aid, Sightsavers has been working with a number of organisations, including Cameroon’s official election body, to raise awareness of this situation, and to support people with disabilities in engaging with the democratic process in their country.
We’re working with partners in Cameroon and Senegal to ensure people with disabilities are able to take part in every stage of the political process.
We’re working with partners in Kenya to give young people the skills and practical experience they need to begin a career in IT.
We’re working with governments in Uganda and Malawi to improve access to quality eye care services and prevent avoidable blindness.