Sightsavers stories

“I didn’t know that disabled people have the right to vote”

Nanny Powers.

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

“God blessed me with very fabulous parents. My (late) dad made me see that, even though I’m of little height, I have to do something more than other people. I have to be an exceptional case… he helped me create the Association. The aim of the Association is to put an end to the discrimination and marginalisation of [people with restricted growth]. I show that they should have an education, a family – they should not face barriers and they should be equally assisted by NGOs and organisations with their problems and their projects all their lives.

“We want a change. We have rights equally, so they have to respect us; they equally have to respect our rights, give us what we have to own and stop exploiting us. The battle is: exploitation, discrimination and marginalisation.

“The first time I tried to vote, the voting box was too high [for me to reach]! I was not aware, I didn’t know my rights. I didn’t know that disabled people have the right to vote, I didn’t know if it was for a certain class and a certain age. I’d reached the age to vote and I was battling for the rights of little people and a woman came and said: ‘You have the right to vote.’ That’s how I started.

“It was so amazing, I realised that my voice equally counted so I had to vote.

“It was a surprise [to my family] because I was on TV when they saw me. They said: ‘Ah! So you went to vote, that’s good!’ At that time my dad was still living; he was so happy. He said: ‘Wow, if things are going like that, one day little persons will have what they want.’ So it was really amazing, my family really liked it.

“In Cameroon, it’s still stigmatised, until people see me going into an office to go and vote. That’s when people realise that they can equally vote. If you permit people with disabilities to know that they have rights, they don’t have to just sit at home and say: ‘Ah no, a vote is just for other people – we are not concerned.’

“And now we’re talking about maybe having the intention to be in politics. That is another battle. You can imagine that if people in society are still trying to accept you as individuals, it’s not easy for them to accept you as a political leader, but it can be done.

“It’s important for me to vote because I am fighting for the right of [people with restricted growth] and one of the rights that we have is the right to vote. I have the right to vote. I have the right to say no – I’m comfortable with this; I’m not comfortable with that. So I would encourage all little people to vote, because their voice counts.”

Irish Aid logoIn 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.

Learn how we’re campaigning for disability rights

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