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NUDIPU FIGHTS FOR PWDs ELECTORAL INCLUSION

By Isaac Wandubile

The National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda (NUDIPU) has called for equal opportunities and strengthening of participation of persons with disabilities (PWDs) in democratic electoral processes to ensure that they are not disfranchised.

Addressing a press conference in Kampala on January 6, 2021, NUDIPU Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Edson Ngirabakunzi, noted that whereas they recognise the efforts made by the Government towards including persons with disabilities in the political and electoral processes, there is much more yet to be done.

Mr. Ngirabakunzi said inclusive electoral processes are fundamental for a stronger political voice and to increase recognition of PWDs as equal citizens. He noted that PWDs face unique barriers that hinder their effective participation in political processes in Uganda.

He enumerated the challenges faced by PWDs as lack of data on the number and location of persons with visual impairments (the blind) who need braille ballot papers to inform planning and budgeting, ignorance of electoral officials of the disability issues and concerns, discrimination, electoral information and materials not in accessible format.

Other challenges Mr. Ngirabakunzi outlined are inaccessible polling centres, most political party manifestoes being not disability inclusive, non-disabled people vying for disability slots in local governments, communication barriers between candidates, voters and polling officials, long distances to polling centres, high nomination fees, disability exclusive voter education and difficulty in accessing voter slips among others.

“These barriers have been deterrent to PWDs’ participation in political and other electoral related processes,” said Mr. Ngirabakunzi.

He called upon the Electoral Commission to ensure that polling officials and staff are trained in disability management to ensure persons with disabilities are not disenfranchised.

NUDIPU further wants the EC to ensure that polling centres are accessible and within reasonable distance to enable PWDs fully and effectively participate in the electoral processes.

“The Electoral Commission should ensure that the register of PWDs is cleaned and non-PWDs are removed with immediate effect and ensure use of sign language interpreters in all its road map activities including all meetings and media briefings. The EC should also partner with organizations of persons with disabilities to ensure stronger voice for PWDs and all their concerns are included in all phases and stages of the electoral cycle,” said Mr. Ngirabakunzi.

He also demanded that the EC ensures that election results at all levels are made available in accessible formats to PWDs and that it conducts a mini census to establish reliable data on PWDs who require braille paper and tactile voting for effective planning during electoral processes.

“The Electoral Commission should ensure that guides and helpers of Persons with Disabilities are facilitated so as to enable the different disability categories fully participate in the elections,” he added.

NUDIPU is an umbrella organization with a vision of having dignity for every PWD. It exists to advocate for the rights of PWDs in a unified voice for improved livelihoods. This is pursued through participation in policy planning, information sharing and optimizing knowledge and skills inherent among stakeholders, capacity building, awareness enhancement and resource mobilization.

The organization derives its mandate from the full membership of 112 district unions of PWDs in Uganda and nine national disabled people’s organizations (DPOs). It is mandated to promote an enabling environment for PWDs through policy advocacy, empowering its constituency, facilitating cooperation between DPOs, communities, Government, development partners, and the private sector in Uganda. (For comments on this story, call, text or whatsapp us on 0705579994, 0779411734, 0200900416 or email us at mulengera2040@gmail.com).

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